Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has stated that the Buhari-led administration has respect for free press, adding that no democratic nation can survive by gaging the press.
The minister stated this following backlashes against the proposed social media regulation bill.
Mohammed noted that social media will not be shut down but will be regulated to stop hate speech and fake news in the country.
Speaking during a visit to Vintage Press Limited, the publishers of The Nation newspapers and Sporting Life, following the October 21, 2020 attack on the organisation’s corporate headquarters by hoodlum following the shooting of EndSARS protesters on October 20.
He said that the attack was premeditated and intended to silence the voice of The Nation but not just an attack on Vintage Press Limited, but also on free press.
Lai Mohammed said;
“I know some observers may wonder how the minister can describe the attack on The Nation as attack on free press and on democracy, whereas a few days ago, he canvassed for regulation of social media.
“I say to such observers that there is no contradiction in what I said before and what I am saying now. This government has respect for the free press. What we are against is irresponsible use of social media and fake news.
“We did not start this campaign against fake news yesterday. In 2017, we devoted an entire National Council on Information meeting to address the issues of fake news and hate speech.
“I remember I said that day that there is a new epidemic coming to consume the world. That epidemic is fake news. That epidemic will pose great danger to global peace and security.
“In 2018, we followed it up by launching a national campaign against fake news and hate speech. These were because we knew the danger there. We did not, at any time, say we would kill the internet.
“We did not say social media must be closed down, never! Social media is here to stay and it would be antithesis to democracy if one makes an attempt to shut down the social media.
“However, we must regulate social media in a manner that it does not become a purveyor of fake news and hate speech.
“Today, the pattern of choice for purveyors of fake news and hate speech is social media. It travels so fast; it disseminates so fast.
“This is why it is important for any country to look at that platform and ensure it is regulated in a manner that does not bring harm not just to the users but to everybody. No country will fold its hands and watch purveyors of fake news and hate speech destabilise it.