Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has said that the recent move by the Federal Government to regulate the social media space from fake news and hate speech is not aimed at gagging the media.
Mr Mohammed made this known when he received the National Executives of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) led by its President, Christopher Isiguzo on a courtesy visit in Abuja.
He said that if the NUJ and other media professional bodies, they should reach out and engages the government, instead of rushing to the media to condemn the move to protect the integrity of the media.
“As a professional body for journalists, the NUJ has its code of ethics for journalists, and this guides their operation. To the best of my knowledge, the trained, professional journalists cannot afford to engage in fake news, because this will kill public trust in the media. They also cannot afford to engage in hate speech, because of its implication for national peace and unity. After all, there has to be a country before you can even practice your profession.
“When we announced the plan to regulate the social media, we said clearly that the regulation is not an attempt to gag the media or muzzle free speech; we said journalists have nothing to fear.”
Mr Mohammed urged media practitioners to lead in sanitizing the social media space because they will be the first victim when the people lose confidence in the media due to the reckless actions of non-journalists and purveyors of fake news and hate speech.
“We will not unilaterally impose measures aimed at injecting sanity into the social media space. We will work with stakeholders, including the NUJ, Guild of Editors, Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, the Civil Society, Online Publishers, Bloggers, etc.
“Already, we have dispatched letters to these stakeholders. A government that has the intention of gagging the media won’t engage stakeholders in dialogue on the way forward.”
He explained that the Federal Government has taken the initiative to adopt the use of technology, legislation and regulatory bodies, but it is up to the stakeholders to decide the best option.
“But we have also taken the initiative to meet, very soon, with the platform owners, like Facebook, Whatsapp, Google, Twitter and Instagram, among others, to engage them on the way forward.
“But I must say that rushing to reject the plan without bothering to understand what it entails is not helpful, and constitutes panic reaction.”
Mr Mohammed stated that the Federal Government will still go ahead with the plan to stop purveyors of fake news and hate speeches. Adding that, no responsible government will allow such acts to reign freely.