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Amnesty International, a global rights group has said that the regulations being made by the Federal Government of Nigeria are meant to protect politicians and their cronies in place of making policies and regulations that should protect human rights including free speech and press freedom.
Dr. Osai Ojigho, who is the Director, Amnesty International in Nigeria, made this known on Wednesday while featuring in PUNCH Online interview programme, tagged The Roundtable.
She condemned the recent action by the President Buhari-led administration to suspend social media platform Twitter as well as the government’s various attempts to muzzle press freedom and free speech.
The Buhari administration had suspended Twitter on June 4, 2021, citing “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, subsequently ordered the National Broadcasting Commission to commence the licensing of all social media and online broadcast platforms in the country while the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, ordered the prosecution of persons using Virtual Private Networks to circumvent Twitter suspension.
The government also seeks to amend the Nigerian Press Council Act and the National Broadcasting Commission Act that are currently before the National Assembly in order to have more control over the press.
Many rights group have since knocked the Buhari regime for going the way of the infamous Decree 4 of 1984 when free speech was an anathema but the All Progressives Congress seems unfazed and determined to stifle the freedom of expression.
The Amnesty official said the government’s excuse that Twitter allows offensive voices to ventilate hate speech is not justifiable as the social media platform has its own community rules which it has been sticking to.
Ojigho also faulted the comparison made by the information minister that Nigeria is following the footstep of China in terms of media restriction.
She said, “It is ironic that as a country, we are being compared or assessed with countries like China, like North Korea, in terms of free country, in terms of countries that respect human rights; it is a new low for Nigeria to be compared in that aspect.
“Early today, I learnt that in Hong Kong, a newspapers which has been providing information for years is closing down because of a new repressive law being pushed by China. This is not where Nigeria should be heading.
“The regulations regarding all models of communication need to be viewed in terms of pragmatism. Also, they must pursue avenues that do not infringe on human rights. If the regulations are going to be infringing on human rights, then, they are dead on arrival.
“Human right is there to ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally. Freedom of expression is a human right that is exhibited and exercised through the use of this medium (Twitter). International laws and covenant on civil and political rights, and even our constitution, speak to those rights.”
The Amnesty official further stressed that rather than ban social interaction platforms like Twitter, the government should make laws to protect free speech and expose peddlers of fake news and divisive statements.
“There is an assumption that fake news and false news are happening now because of social media but we’ve always had fake news and the way we’ve always tackled it is to address the sources of those information rather than the mediums that were used.
“We also have laws that deal with issues around defamation by persons who believe that their rights have been violated in one way or the other.
“Government should look at its own role on how to act and be more proactive in giving out information and combating fake news.
“The laws that we have are to protect everyone but we have seen a trend that laws are now protecting politicians and those in power, rather than the people, hence, the complaint by the people,” she stated.[ Culled from ThePunch]
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