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Purveyors of hate speech should not expect rest, says Lai Mohammed



The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed says no amount of attacks, sponsored or otherwise, will stop the implementation of approved recommendations on reform of broadcasting code.

The minister stated this on Sunday at a meeting with Online Publishers in Lagos.

“Let me be straight: No amount of attacks, sponsored or otherwise, will stop the implementation of the approved

“Only non-patriots and anarchists will kick against measures aimed at putting an end to fake news and hate speech, especially in our broadcast industry.

“Only those who are guilty should be afraid of the efforts to sanitize the broadcast industry. Responsible broadcasters have nothing to fear.

“This is not a move to stifle free speech or gag anyone. But purveyors of fake news and hate speech should not expect to sleep easy,” he said.

The Minister had on October 10 announced President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of the review of National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect stiffer penalties for violators of broadcasting regulations.

Mohammed, who inaugurated the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Reform Implementation Committee, added that the President also endorsed the implementation of reforms to end monopoly in the sector.

The minister, however, noted that since the inauguration of the committee, there have been attacks, many of them sponsored, from some quarters.

“As I speak, plans are ongoing to launch more coordinated attacks, with a view to truncating the implementation of the approved recommendations,” he said.

He stressed that no responsible government would sit by and allow fake news and hate speech to rule the airwaves.

The minister stressed that fake news and hate speech have the capacity to exploit the national fault lines and trigger a national conflagration.

He reiterated that the federal government would continue to evolve ways to tackle the menace.

The minister recalled that he launched the National Campaign Against Fake News in July 2018 in Abuja.

“While the national campaign has succeeded in putting the issue of fake news and hate speech on the front burner of national discourse, the menace has yet to go away.

“Let me be clear: we didn’t think the issue will suddenly disappear, but we also didn’t think it will get worse, which is what it is now.

“In fact, it remains a clear and imminent danger to the polity. It is in this light that we are once again asking you to join us in pushing this campaign,” he said.

The minister enjoined the Online Publishers, to lead the campaign against fake news and hate speech, which he tagged as “the Siamese twins of evil”.

“Gentleman, we expect you to remain in the vanguard of the efforts to tackle fake news and hate speech.

“We expect you to educate our people on the efforts being made, especially by the government, in this regard.

“This administration has no intention of muzzling the media or stifling free speech.

“Our campaign is against fake news and hate speech. And we will not rest until our media space has been rid of fake news and hate speech,” he said.

The President had underscored the need to inject sanity into the nation’s broadcast industry, following the unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations, especially before and during the last general elections.

Highlights of the terms of reference of the reform implementation committee inaugurated by the minister included upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5 million for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency

“Wilful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station to attract suspension of license

“Upgrade of breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to ”Class A” offence in the Broadcasting Code.”

The committee is also saddled with the responsibility of amending the NBC Act to enable NBC license WebTv and radio stations, among others.

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