Head of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, Dr. Edith Ugochi Ohaja has said the proposed bill trying to place the death penalty on whoever is convicted of hate speech is a time bomb on the journalism profession in Nigeria.
According to Dr. Edith, she cannot believe the bill is being deliberated on because it is a complete misplacement of priorities.
She then urged journalists in Nigeria to come all out and prove that the Nigerian media which stood firm during General Sani Abacha led military regime is not dead and they will keep defending justice, truth, and human rights.
Her words, “This is a country where rampaging herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers, and terrorists seem to be treated with kid gloves. One would have called this a misplacement of priorities if the move wasn’t so sinister and it speaks to the baseness of the current National Assembly.
“By reviving this bill and seeking to set up a whole agency for so-called hate speech, the government is no longer hiding its dictatorial inclinations. Besides the social media, blogs, and citizen journalism websites, traditional media remain the platforms for publicizing people’s expressions of opinions and helping them to gain traction. So they will be prime targets or those whose views are publicized in them will be.
“I don’t know the full provisions of the bill but I imagine there will be punitive fines against corporate bodies, like the media, that are seen as fora for the dissemination of “hate speech”.
“The sad thing in Nigeria is that the media have not been robust enough in withstanding the tyranny of the present regime. Perhaps, the revival of this bill will serve as a wakeup call to them that the government is trampling on everyone’s rights and eroding freedom of the press.”
“In fact, this might be the time for the media to redeem their image by championing the resistance against this kind of move and other obnoxious policies of this government. In the time of Abacha, they did it. Hopefully, the recent years of questionable democracy have not turned them into a hopelessly complacent and conniving lot.”
“The level of ineptitude, sectionalism and other multifarious failings of the government are constantly drawing public ire and that is why the government is desperate to muzzle free expression of ideas and opinions. And the hypocrisy is glaring because it is the executive arm of government and the judiciary it has kept under its thumb that will decide what is hate speech and who to prosecute.”
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