It will be business unusual for social media managers henceforth, Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed, has hinted. He said the Federal Government plans to sanitise that section of the media.
The minister, however, assured that the regulation would be in line with global best practices as obtained in the United Kingdom and Singapore among others.
Mohammed said the government has no plans to gag the press or stifle the media as being insinuated, adding that online television stations and web TVs would have to obtain operational licenses.
Making the clarifications at a briefing in Abuja against the backdrop of the ongoing campaign against fake news and hate speech, the minister said the government will never allow anarchists to take over the nation’s airwaves and media space.
Although he was not forthcoming on the details, Mohammed hinted that a committee will soon be set up on the modalities for sanitising the social media. The minister did not entertain questions on the form of the proposed sanitization, warning that the recklessness in the social media could set the nation on fire if not controlled.
He said: “Gentlemen, since we launched our reform of the broadcast industry, many Nigerians have reached out to us, demanding that we also look into how to sanitise the Social Media space.
”I can assure you that we are also working on how to inject sanity into the Social Media space which, today, is totally out of control. No responsible government will sit by and allow fake news and hate speech to dominate its media space, because of the capacity of this menace to exploit our national fault lines to set us against each other and trigger a national conflagration.
“That is why we will continue to evolve ways to tackle fake news and hate speech until we banish both. Therefore, gentlemen, we once again seek your support for our efforts to banish fake news and hate speech from our media space.”
Mohammed said the ongoing reforms in the broadcast industry and the proposed regulation of social media were not designed to repress press freedom and free speech. He added: “But, as I have been saying, we have no intention of stifling free speech or gagging journalists or anyone. Again, this Administration has no intention of muzzling the media or stifling free speech.
“Our campaign is against fake news and hate speech. However, if you engage in disseminating fake news or hate speech, you need to be worried, because we will not spare you.
“We cannot allow fake news and hate speech to become free speech, because these ‘Siamese Twins of Evil’ are capable of inflicting untold damage on our democracy and threatening our national unity. They represent a clear and imminent danger to our survival as a nation.”
The minister said there is no going back on the ongoing reforms of the broadcast industry by the Federal Government. According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the recommendations to effect reforms in broadcast industry.
He said: “Today’s briefing, as you would imagine, is on the National Campaign Against Fakes News and Hate Speech, which we launched last July. Within the context of that campaign, I recently launched an effort to rid our airwaves of fake news and hate speech.
“Specifically, I set up committee on the implementation of the recommendations that were approved by Mr. President to inject sanity into the nation’s broadcast industry, following the unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations, especially before and during the last general elections.
”The highlights of the recommendations are as follows: Independence of the NBC from political interference in the exercise of its regulatory powers, particularly with respect to the issuance and withdrawal of broadcasting license.
- Review of the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect the following amendments: Upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency; wilful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station to attract suspension of license; upgrade of breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to ‘’Class A’’ offence in the Broadcasting Code; amendment of the NBC Act to enable NBC license WebTV and radio stations.
- Recruitment of more monitoring staff for the NBC. At the moment, there are only about 200 Staff monitoring about 1,000 radio and television stations.
- Deployment of adequate monitoring equipment and technologies for the NBC and, finally….
- Enhancement of welfare packages of NBC staff to avoid their compromise in the line
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