Govt will Not Regulate Social Media, Says Presidency

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  • US, UK to support Nigeria on press freedom

Paul Obi and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day to End Impunity, Crimes against Journalists, the presidency wednesday said the federal government would not regulate social media but would appeal to the conscience of Nigerians to remain ethical in the expression of free speech.

The Senior Special Adviser to the President Muhammadu Buhari on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, who stated this at an event to mark the day organised by Campaign Against Brutality and for Safety of Journalists in Africa (CABSOJA), said to regulate social media would strangulate the rights to press freedom, a basic antidote to democracy.

Ojudu said: “I do not believe in regulation because regulation is going to take away the freedom in the media and I don’t want to canvass for the regulation of the social media. Let the media be unfettered in their reports.

“The only thing we should do is to plead to their conscience. How many people are you going to regulate? How many people are you going to take to court? Somebody goes on Facebook and bears fake name with no address. How do you trace him? he asked.

On the purported bill before the National Assembly to regulate the practice of journalism in and social media in Nigeria, Ojudu said: “No, I do not support any bill that will regulate the practice of journalism in Nigeria because I believe that people should be free to inform. The thing we should do is to appeal to individuals going into journalism to look at the ethics.

“Journalism can regulate itself if practitioners are responsible. Responsible people should go into journalism and let me also say that the society itself provides sanction for journalism,” Ojudu submitted.

Also, both the United States and United Kingdom governments disclosed at the event their resolve to support press freedom in Nigeria.

US Information Officer, Mr. Russell Brooks, said in too many parts of the world, journalists live are at risk because they always try to expose a lot of injustices that exist in all parts of the world.

He noted that based on this, Journalists run the risk of being arrested, imprison, kidnapped and also at the risk of being battered for doing their jobs, while trying to make the world a better place.

Brooks stated that “a free press is the value of the US and we try to promote that value wherever we are, so, I encourage you to continue to do this work, and I look forward to working with NUJ, to support your activities, to supporting the effort to protect journalists as they do their jobs, to work with you when we mark world press freedom in 2017.”

On his part, the Press and Public Relations Officer, UK embassy, Mr. Joseph Abuku said there was need for a strong laws in Nigeria that would ensure journalists discharge their duties without harassment, or brutalisation.

He also harped on the need for a strong institutional framework to be strengthened in order to allow journalists do their work efficiently.

Abuku noted that, “the UK stands for free press and freedom of speech, and any back room approach to muscle that would be frowned upon by the UK. You have full support from the UK high commission, journalists need to do their job unharrased and protected.”

The founder of CABSOJA and Managing Director of Fresh News TV, Mr. Desmond Uthowen, said there should be speedy dispensation of justice in cases involving brutalization of journalists, noting that the organisation would give pro bono service for any journalist brutalised.

Also, the legal adviser to the group, Barr. Ugochukwu Ezekiel said the group would sponsor a private bill in the National Assembly that bothers of the institutional framework for the practice of journalism in the country.

He stressed that, “the bill is the institutional framework for the practice of journalism in Nigeria and for such a bill to be success, there is need for wider consultation, this is the kick off of something that will go far. We are going to consult with key stakeholders in the industry, we are going to consult with the NUJ, it will be a total package, not only insurance, other areas would be considered.”