Tuesday, 10 March 2020

NUJ,Civil Societies,NCC etc Storm NASS Hearing,Reject New Anti Social Media Bill

 Nigeria Union of Journalist Some Nigerians have again called for the withdrawal of the anti-social media bill introduced at the Senate last year. The proposed legislation, titled “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill,” sponsored by Senator Musa Mohammed (Niger East) scaled second reading in November before being referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters headed by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele.

The bill proposes to criminalise the use of the social media in peddling false or malicious information and prescribes a three-year jail term and N10 million fine for individuals and corporate organisations that breach its provisions when signed into law. Various stakeholders, who spoke yesterday at a public hearing, urged the Senate to halt further consideration of the proposed legislation.

Executive Vice President of NCC Umar Dambata said certain provisions of the bill are difficult to implement, adding that those provisions have already been covered by other laws. The bill, he said, gave too much power to the police and other security agencies. While noting that the bill has general drafting anomalies, Dambata also said, “It is our opinion that the National Assembly will need a redraft, so that it can be aligned with existing legislative drafting.”

Speaking on behalf of the CSOs, the head of Civil Society Organisation Situation Room, Clement Nwankwo, said the bill, if passed, would result in “too much impunity” by the police. NUJ president Christopher Isiguzo claimed that the bill sought to pigeon-hole Nigerians from freely expressing themselves, noting that “when the people are suppressed, it endangers democracy.”

The Executive Director of YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, said the bill is not reasonably justifiable in a democratic society even though the government’s purpose may be legitimate and substantial. However, the Nigerian Army said it backed the bill for reason of national security.

The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, said countries worldwide were taking measures to promote national security and Nigeria should not be an exception. Buratai, who was represented by Maj-Gen. Solomon Uduonwa, Deputy Chief of Policy and Plans of the Nigerian Army, said internet falsehood affects military operations, undermines military leadership, lower troops’ morale and creates chaos and social upheavals.

Also, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) said it supported the bill but cautioned that the piece of legislation should not be used to infringe on the freedom of expression.

The council was represented by Ustaz Yusuf Nwoha. Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the passion that the bill generated was not unexpected because it relates to the Internet, which has become central to human lives, as it has reshaped how we live, work and interact.


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