Nigeria: Stop Social Media Bill, IT Experts Tell Senate

Internet

Some Information Technology experts on Wednesday urged the Senate to stop the Social Media Bill, saying the Cyber Security Law had addressed the issues in question. The experts, in separate interviews with newsmen in Lagos, said that there was no need for such a bill.

The bill for an "Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected therewith," sponsored by Sen. Bala Ibn Na'Allah (APC-Kebbi South), has passed the second reading. The Chief Executive Officer, Teledom Group, Mr Emmanuel Ekuwem, said the Cyber Security Law had addressed all concerns about citizens' rights infractions via the social media with appropriate sanctions.

He said that all that was necessary was to ensure enforcement of the Cyber Security Law. Mr Lanre Ajayi, the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), told NAN that the bill would take the country backward in the internet world.

Ajayi said that the internet was open and its openness had led to innovations being enjoyed by everyone. "I find it very strange and very disturbing. The internet is there for development and now our own country is trying to hinder development by introducing censorship into it. "People should quickly intervene before Nigeria is taken to a backward direction.

The developments that we have seen in the past decade are strictly because of the openness of the internet. "Internet guarantees freedom and when we should be thinking of the freedom of our people, we are now talking about backwarding people, in the name of censorship," he said.

According to him, the Social Media Bill is not a welcome development hence the bill should be suspended indefinitely.

The President of Medallion Communications, Mr Ikechukwu Nnamani, said that the bill still had a long way to go before becoming law.

Nnamani urged Nigerians to stand against the bill whenever there was a public debate on it, as it would hinder freedom of speech. He said that the bill would "curtail breaking news" in journalism profession, since all facts might not be available as at the time an event might unfold. "Nobody wants to publish frivolous information or information that cannot be backed up, but one has to be careful that the freedom of speech and the ability to disseminate information on the go is not curtailed by this bill.

"If there are still issues the Cyber Security Law needed to address, then we have to amend the law, instead of enacting another separate law," Nnamani said. The Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, Mr Gbenga Sesan, said the bill was just one out of 100 bills under consideration by the Senate.

Sesan called on Nigerian citizens to realise the need to engage the good old rule of eternal vigilance, the price of liberty.

"You probably don't want to follow all the bills, but you can at least watch out for those that touch on your rights and make sure you initiate or support advocacy efforts around them.

"From time to time, legislators need to be reminded that they work for us all, and this is one opportunity to ring that bell of sanity," he said. On Dec. 2, a bill seeking a two-year jail term for Social Media offenders was presented before the Senate.

It also provides an option of N4 million fine for offenders for false newspaper, radio and television statements and N2 million for false phone text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or WhatsApp messages.
Source: Vanguard 9 December 2015