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Senate moves to check alleged abuses in social media operations




THE Senate yesterday directed three of its standing committees ‎to review existing media laws and make strict provisions to check what it called abuses of the press freedom concept.

It threatened to seek the de-registration of some of the online media organisations that were registered and operating from foreign countries and using their publications to undermine Nigeria’s democracy.

Adopting a motion sponsored by Senator Dino Melaye, (PDP, Kogi West), resolved that there was an urgent need to impose some degrees of limitation on the operations of the media, particularly the social media.

Consequently, the Upper Chamber directed it’s committees on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions; Judiciary as well as the committee on Information Communication Technology (ICT) to scrutinise the laws that guaranteed the operations of the social media and consider introducing more ‎stringent clauses to check against further abuses.

Melaye noted that Sahara Reporters has, in recent time, engaged in a number of false publications against the Upper Legislative Chamber.

Defending his motion, Melaye urged his colleagues not to keep quiet over what he referred to as negative aspersions on the 8th Senate.

He said: “While I celebrate the social media as major actors, this Senate should not be blackmailed or cowed because of the social media. They (online social media) are able to drag democracy into crisis by casting aspersions on the Senate.
“The Senate is a hallowed and sacred chamber. This can have a negative concomitant effect on democracy. They have commercialised their consciences, and monetised their operations, and are now tools used against perceived political enemies. This Senate must not, because of fear of blackmail, keep quiet,” Dino warned.

In his contribution, the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, sought to know, if there are laws in place to checkmate the activities and operations of the online media organisations.

Ndume, who noted ‎that there are many other media houses that are equally guilty of incessant lies against politicians and other public figures, lamented that he had in the past been accused of buying 400 Golf Volkswagen cars for ‎Boko Haram.

Also speaking on the matter, the Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi, acknowledged that the social media is the best thing that has happened to Nigeria as a country.

She, however, condemned the various “unruly” behaviour of various social media houses.
In his remarks, the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, observed that accuracy was very important.
“However, a few bad eggs are set to sabotage what goes on social media. We all agreed to support the freedom of speech. But as a Senate, we should not be blackmailed. You can’t write false stories just because it is social media,” said Saraki.

He, thereafter, refereed the motion to the committees on ICT, Cyber Crime and Judiciary, under the headship of the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.

The Senate had on Wednesday debated a bill, which sought to impose a two-year jail term on publication of petitions or article to injure a public officer without a sworn affidavit in a regular court.

Adopting a bill tagged “A Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected Therewith”, sponsored by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC Kebbi South), the Senate imposed “an imprisonment for a term of two years or a fine of N200,000” on a person convicted for acting, using or caused to be used any petition or complaint not accompanied by a dully sworn affidavit.

It also provides for mandatory six months imprisonment without an option of fine for any person who unlawfully uses, publish or cause to be published any petition, complaint not supported by a dully sworn affidavit.

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