when they paid a courtesy visit to the Minister in Abuja on Monday
By Ayo Kehinde
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has stated that the government would engage stakeholders in the media industry and civil society in talks before taking measures to ‘inject sanity into the social media space’.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by officials of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, to his office on Monday, Mohammed said letters have already been dispatched to the relevant bodies for discussion, restating that the planned regulation is not intended to gag the press or stifle free speech but sanction those he referred to as “purveyors of fake news and hate speech.”
He said: “As a professional body for journalists, the NUJ has its code of ethics for journalists, and this guides their operation. To the best of my knowledge, the trained, professional journalists cannot afford to engage in fake news, because this will kill public trust in the media. They also cannot afford to engage in hate speech, because of its implication for national peace and unity. After all, there has to be a country before you can even practice your profession.
“It is therefore imperative for the NUJ and other professional bodies to guard their turf very jealously and ward off charlatans and fakes.
-“When we announced the plan to regulate the social media, we said clearly that the regulation is not an attempt to gag the media or muzzle free speech. We said journalists have nothing to fear.
“As a matter of fact, the NUJ and other media professional bodies should take the lead in sanitizing the social media space, because they will be the first victim when the people lose confidence in the media due to the reckless actions of non-journalists and purveyors of fake news and hate speech.
Mohammed said the stakeholders to whom letters had been dispatched for robust engagement on the planned regulation are the NUJ, Guild of Editors, Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, the Civil Society, Online Publishers, Bloggers.
“ Already, we have dispatched letters to these stakeholders. A government that has the intention of gagging the media won’t engage stakeholders in dialogue on the way forward.”
Declaring that the debate on the issue of regulating the social media has been
robust, he disclosed that there are many options open to the government in regulating the social media.
“There is the use of technology that is unobtrusive. There is legislation. There is the use of regulatory bodies. It is up to the stakeholders to decide the best option. But we have also taken the initiative to meet, very soon, with the platform owners, like Facebook, Whatsapp, Google, Twitter and Instagram, among others, to engage them on the way forward.” He concluded and thanked the delegation for their visit.
In his remarks, the NUJ President, Mr. Chris Isiguzo, thanked the government for boosting security through the Nigerian Internal Security and Public Safety Alert System which, he said, the NUJ will
key into for enhanced safety of journalists in the country.
He said the NUJ is also working with stakeholders to present a bill to enhance welfare package for journalists before the National Assembly.