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At Abuja forum, stakeholders dissect minister’s denial of hate speech bill

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Senate President, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan (right); founder, DAAR Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi and Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, during the Town Hall Forum on Hate Speech organised by DAAR Communications in Abuja…yesterday.


He was right to deny knowledge of proposed law, says Dokpesi

Stakeholders yesterday brainstormed on the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019, otherwise known as the Social Media Bill, discussing its advantages and disadvantages.

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had denied knowledge of hate speech, fake news and media regulation bills before the National Assembly.This was revealed yesterday at the Ait.live town hall forum for which the organisers had anticipated that the Ministry of Information would be represented.

However, they indicated that all efforts to attract a representative to clarify the government’s position on key issues and the content of the bill proved abortive.

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In spite of abundance of proof about the existence of the bills, the minister insisted that the country was not trying to pass any such laws.The bill if passed, would give absolute powers to the government and its agents to clamp down on critics and shut down the Internet.

Sponsored by Senator Muhammad Sani Musa of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the bill passed the first and second readings on November 5, 2020 and November 20, 2020.

Speaking at the forum, Chairman of DAAR Communications PLC, Raymond Dokpesi (Junior) said notwithstanding, many Nigerians will have seen within the last few days, a Deutsche Welle interview with Lai Mohammed, in which he denied any knowledge of the Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, also known as the Fake News Bill.He noted that the minister was, however, right to deny knowledge of the bill despite what anybody would say.

He said, “I believe this because to have admitted knowledge of the bill will have exposed him to questions about the punitive measures contained therein, which in turn, from a neo-liberal European perspective will have exposed this government and the country to international ridicule.

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“For not washing our dirty laundry abroad I thank the minister, but here at home, his absence from this event and silence of the Ministry of Information on government’s position supporting or opposing these bills is deafening!”

According to him, on November 5, 2019 the bill was introduced to the Senate. It was a private member bill and so given as the minister has disowned the bill, it is futile so suggest otherwise.

“The right to freedom is one of the fundamental freedoms of everyone and does not depend on the state at the same time. It is one of the fundamental rights of citizens more so that there is no democracy without it,” he added.

On his part, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, advocated use of social media to enhance national unity and not for tearing the country apart.Malami, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Umar Gwandu said Nigeria needed social media more in enhancing national unity, patriotism, human capacity development and entrepreneurial skills and not for tearing the nation apart.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who declared the town hall forum open, said the issues have become topical because of new realities, adding that the realities have come because of the fresh gains in media and information technologies.He expressed confidence that at the end of the meeting, stakeholders should be able to find good answers to the questions, not just to enrich their knowledge on hate speech and fake news, but also to assist the National Assembly and the government on way forward.

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