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Death penalty hate speech bill: UN, UK react

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The United Nations and the United Kingdom have reacted to the death penalty clause being proposed by the Senate’s Hate Speech Bill.


Sponsored by Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Sabi Abdullahi, the bill provides for the setting up of a National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech.

Describing the death penalty as barbaric, the UN noted that its inclusion in the bill was unacceptable.

The bill stipulates that any person who violates the law shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging.

The spokesman of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Mr Olusola Macaulay, said the global body would not support the bill, adding a UNESCO advocacy group, Media and Information Literacy Coalition, would soon meet with the National Assembly over the proposed legislation.

“We are trying to pay an advocacy visit to the government and do some lobbying. There is a coalition working already, it was formed with the support of UNESCO.

“They are working to meet with the National Assembly to express their mind and possibly advise the government to have a different narrative to the issue of hate speech and fake news,” he said.

 “I’m not sure what the government needs now is a bill or an idea to shut down people or prevent people from being able to express themselves or express their freedom of thought or information.

“What I think the government should do more is to enlighten the people.”

The UN agency said most Nigerians were ignorant of issues relating to media and information literacy, noting that a harsh law was not the solution to the challenge.

“Every human being has the right to life and you cannot cut off people’s lives just because someone has expressed his opinion. Nobody is saying hate speech is good.

“Hate speech and fake news have been there from time immemorial and it is barbaric to say now that we want to hang people because they expressed their feelings or what they had in mind.

“So, censoring people or limiting people from participating in politics might not be the correct thing. As I said, the best thing to do is to educate the people.”
Macaulay wondered why the government for not holding politicians engaging in hate speech to account, noting that many of them had said things that could destabilise the country without being held liable.On its part, the British Government said it supported the right of individuals to express opinions and peacefully challenge authority as an essential part of a free and open society, noting that it was following discussions around the proposed legislation closely.

“Her Majesty’s Government said while it takes a strong stand against hate speech which could incite violence and damage relationships within the society.

“It supports the right of individuals to express opinions and peacefully challenge authority as an essential part of a free and open society.”

“The UK government is following discussions around the proposed Prohibition of Hate Speech bill closely.

“We take a strong stand against hate speech, which can incite violence and damage community relationships within society.

“We also strongly support the right of individuals to express opinions and peacefully challenge authority as an essential part of a free and open society.

“The UK strongly opposes the inclusion of the death penalty in any piece of legislation, as a matter of principle,”  a statement by the Senior Press and Public Affairs Officer, British High Commission, Abuja, Mr Chris Ogunmodede, said.

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