FG to convene stakeholders meeting on social media regulation

By Benjamin Usman

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said
his ministry will this month convene a stakeholders’ meeting as part
of efforts to design a framework for the sanitization of the social

The Minister stated this in Abuja when he received the
Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Jyrki Pulkkinen, and the Ambassador
of Innovation of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Finland, Mr. Jarmo
Sareva, who were on an advocacy visit to promote the ideals of the
Freedom Online Coalition.

He said the government’s response to the irresponsible use of the
social media to promote fake news and hate speech by some unscrupulous
individuals is to work with stakeholders to device a mechanism to
sanitize the social media, without stifling press freedom or
infringing on the rights of individuals.

“Our attempt to sanitize the social media is not at all an attempt to
stifle the media and I want to make this very clear…. As we speak
today, we will be meeting later in the month with leaders of the
media, civil society, security and other stakeholders on how to
sanitize our social media and make it safe for all.

“We, especially in this ministry, have watched with some trepidation
the social media front and we have seen how some people try to abuse
this platform to cause disaffection, especially by pushing fake news
and hate speech,” he said.

He said the government remains overwhelmingly committed to the
protection of human rights, both offline and online, noting, however,
that it will not shy away from ensuring that Nigeria has a responsibly
free media.

The Minister said that in spite of the plurality of values, tribes,
cultures and religions, the government has striven to strike a balance
between press/individual freedom and national security.

“For us in Nigeria, respect for human rights is a cardinal principle
of not just our constitution but of our day-to-day governance. I am
yet to see any country with the kind of population we have, the kind
of multi values, multi cultures and multi religions we have, that has
at the same time striven to balance national security with freedom of
the press.

“I make bold to say that this administration in particular has no
intention and does not tamper with the freedom of speech or freedom of
individuals,” he said.

In his remarks, the Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Pulkkinen,
acknowledged that the Minister has a broad understanding of the issues
surrounding the misuse of the social media, particularly in relation
to the credibility of information on the platform, and urged Nigeria
to partner with global bodies like the Freedom Online Coalition in
order to address some of the challenges posed by the social media.

For his part, the Ambassador of Innovation in the Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Finland, Mr. Sarevo, said the Freedom Online Coalition is
a group of 31 like-minded countries formed to promote human rights
online and also ensure cyber security, privacy and protection of data
against illegal usage and monetization and trust, with a view to
protecting all those uploading data on the internet.

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