Senate Won’t Back Down on Anti-Social Media BillFeatured, Latest News, News Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
Ayodele Afolabi, Abuja
Senate has vowed to continue with the bill seeking to regulate operations of social media in Nigeria and other matters connected therewith in spite of alleged efforts being made to blackmail it into dropping the idea by an online medium.
The Senate had on Wednesday passed the bill seeking regulation of the social media and other matters connected therewith through second reading of a bill tagged: “A Bill For An Act To Prohibit Frivolous Petitions And Other Matters Connected Therewith”,
On social media, the bill reads: “Where any person through text message,tweets, whatsApp or through any social media post any abusive statement knowing same to be false with intent to set the public against any person and group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction,shall be liable to an imprisonment for two years or a fine of N2,000,000.00 or both fine and imprisonment”.
A move many other social media platforms kicked against through different publications on Wednesday night.
But the Senate through motion moved yesterday by Senator Dino Melaye ( APC Kogi West), said it will not be blackmailed into jettisoning the lofty idea.
Melaye who came through order 14 of the Senate’s standing rule to call the attention of the senate to alleged offensive reports of Sahara Reporters to the Senate, said that social media operators should be held accountable for their reports and publications.
He noted with displeasure that if no measure was put in place to check the activities of SaharaReporters and others like it, the social media could taint the nation’s democracy.
He said: “If there are no measures put in place, this particular SaharaReporters and others have the capacity to drag democracy into crisis because they have become very reckless.
“They make laborious statements that have no content of fact at all and because of the Nigeria’s perception it is very important that we check their activities.
“While I celebrate the social media as major actors, this Senate should not be blackmailed or cowed because of the social media. You will read time innumerable, SaharaReporters casting aspersion on the integrity of the Senate. The Senate is a sacred hallowed chamber.
“The bill moved yesterday on frivolous petitions have been misconstrued by this same people and this Senate should not keep quiet because this can have a negative effect on the Nation. This SaharaReporters have commercialized their consciences and monetize their operations and are now tools being used against perceived political enemies.
“SaharaReporters operate from New York and this Senate must write the US government to draw their attention to the clandestine operations of SaharaReporters”.
He however added that the social medium operated by some credible individuals must be celebrated but stressed that those used for intimidation and blackmail must be checked.
Speaking in the same vein, the Leader of the Senate Ali Ndume reiterated that the activities of some social media operators were `getting out of hand’.
“It is not only SaharaReporters; you have the privilege where people just wake up because of the advancement in ICT and start writing whatever without being held responsible,” he said.
He said that the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) and the freedom of speech must be looked into. He recalled when he was accused by an online magazine of importing 400 golf cars for Boko Haram insurgents stressing that that was a pointer to the need to regulate.
“We are a law making body and we have a responsibility to make laws that hold people responsible for actions that they take. People should not just publicize anything without being held responsible,” he said.
But Senator Abiodun Olujimi (PDP Ekiti South) however stressed that the social media was an innovation that had benefitted Nigeria a great deal.
She said that the social media helped in election and in information dissemination but added that their excesses was becoming a challenge.
According to her, “The major problem have been the people who do not have any laid down rule as to what to do on the social media and they call themselves pressmen.
“I have been a journalist all my life and the major and important tenet of that profession is that you must be fair to all concerned. But on this issue of social media, nobody is fair to anybody; in fact I have read stories about myself where I never participated in anything that was reported,” she said.
Senator Olujimi said that due to the activities of the social media, she had deactivated her account on Twitter, Facebook, WhatApps and other social media.
“They used the social media as a medium to castigate anybody that was in politics and anyone that was in the ruling party.
It was our turn the last time and now it is the turn of the ruling party; that is the way it has been, when you are in office they must have something against you.
“But the most annoying one is castigating the entire Senate and bringing it to disrepute, we must be able to fight that and we must look at the laws and do something concrete.
Consequently, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki in his own remarks, noted that the social media should be fair and accurate. He said it should not let `a few bad eggs’ taint the image of the social media.
“People must be held responsible for their action. I believe what has been raised is important,” Saraki said.
He therefore referred the matter to the Committees on Ethics Privileges and Public Petition; Committee on Information Communication Technology; and Committee on Judiciary.
The committees are to be led by the Ethics committee and are to report back to the Senate within four weeks.
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