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Hate Speech Bill dangerous to journalism profession – Ohaja



The head of the Department of Mass Communication of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, Dr. Edith Ugochi Ohaja, described the proposed bill that seeks to impose the death penalty on anyone convicted of hate speech as a time bomb in the journalistic profession in Nigeria.

Latest Nigeria newspaper report that Ohaja said he could not believe that the National Assembly is deliberating on a bill that provides capital punishment for expressing opinions, and described it as a total loss of priorities.

Latest Nigeria newspaper report that Senator Sabi Abdullahi, a representative of the northern Niger senatorial district, on Tuesday sponsored a private bill to address hate speech and other content related to social networks, considered antagonistic to the interest of Nigerian society.

The legislator, who was a spokesman for the Senate in the 8th Senate and now Deputy Chief Whip, wants the National Assembly to establish a Commission with administrative structures to deal with hate speech in Nigeria.

The bill entitled: “Bill of the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Est., Etc.), 2019 (SB. 154)” passed its first reading on Tuesday.

However, speaking with Latest Nigeria newspaper in an interview in Aba on Wednesday, Ohaja challenged journalists in Nigeria to live up to the circumstances and demonstrate that the Nigerian media that stood firm during the general-led military regime Sani Abacha are still alive to defend justice, truth and human rights.

She said: “This is a country where shepherds, bandits, kidnappers and terrorists seem to be treated with gloves for children. One would have called this a loss of priorities if the movement were not so sinister and speaks of the baseness of the current National Assembly. By reviving this bill and trying to establish a complete agency for the so-called hate speech, the government is no longer hiding its dictatorial inclinations.

“In addition to social networks, blogs and citizen journalism websites, traditional media continue to be the platforms to publicize people’s opinions and help them gain traction. Therefore, they will be main objectives or those whose opinions are published in them will be.

“I do not know the complete provisions of the bill, but I imagine there will be punitive fines against corporate bodies, such as the media, which are seen as forums for the dissemination of” hate speech. The sad thing in Nigeria is that the media have not been robust enough to resist the tyranny of the current regime. Perhaps, the reactivation of this bill will serve as a wake-up call to inform you that the government is trampling on everyone’s rights and eroding press freedom.

“In fact, this could be the time for the media to exchange their image defending resistance against this type of movement and other unpleasant policies of this government. In the time of Abacha, they did. Fortunately, the last years of questionable democracy have not made them an irretrievably complacent and intriguing group. ”

Latest Nigeria newspaper report that Ohaja continued: “The level of ineptitude, sectionalism and other multiple failures of the government constantly attract the anger of the public and that is why the government is desperate to silence the free expression of ideas and opinions.

“And the hypocrisy is evident because it is the executive arm of the government and the judiciary that has kept it under its control that will decide what hate speech is and who to prosecute. Nigerians from all walks of life and all levels of society should resist the approval of this bill because it will kill what is left of our incipient democracy. “