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PRESS FREEDOM | FG Activates Plan to Control Activities of Online Media

Kayode Sesan

Plans to create an umbrella association that will regulate bloggers and online news platforms are being put in place by the Nigerian government, SIGNAL can report.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in a meeting on Monday with selected bloggers and publishers of online news platforms in Lagos set the tone for the emergence of the new platform which sources familiar with the plan disclosed to SIGNAL will help the Federal Government regulate and censor the activities of online news media.

Speaking to SIGNAL on Monday, an informed source who did not want to be named disclosed that the idea is to create an impression that the Nigerian social media needs to self-regulate but the real agenda is to create an umbrella body that the government will use as a tool to muzzle the freedom enjoyed by online news platforms.

“This plan has been in the works and today’s meeting by the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed is a first step by the Buhari government to create a body that will censor online media. They claim it is self-regulation but it is a scam and a subtle agenda to create a platform that they will be controlling and using to set narratives for the Buhari government. If online publishers need a platform to protect their interests from government harassment and intimidation, is it not curious that the government is the one suggesting it? It’s like going to battle and your opponent is the one suggesting the kind of bullet proof you need to wear”, the source elaborated.

Information Minister, Lai Mohammed today assured that the Buhari administration will not stifle free speech by seeking to regulate the Social Media or abridging the rights of the citizens. The Minister, who gave the assurance in Lagos on Monday during a meeting with a cross section of “Social Media Influencers”, however said it is important for them to self regulate in order to maintain their credibility.

”Let me assure you that the Federal Government does not intend to stifle free speech or abridge the rights of Nigerians to air their views freely. We are not about to regulate or stultify the Social Media. This explains why we are asking you to self-regulate. That is why we are encouraging you to rein in the impostors among you and show restraint when dealing with issues of national unity, issues of Nigeria’s sovereignty, as well as issues concerning the lives and well-being of Nigerians.

”What I am saying in essence is that you must self-regulate in order not to self-destruct. Self-regulation allows you to weed out the charlatans among you in order to maintain your credibility and ensure your survival. Lose credibility and lose it all. That is the stark reality. If you must survive and grow, you must not compromise your credibility,” he said.

The Minister described as alarming the spiraling level of hatred among Nigerians, especially the educated ones, on the Social Media in recent times, saying that the kind of debate that is being carried out on the Social Media is exploiting the fault lines in our national unity.

”It (hate debate) is adding fuel to some low-intensity fires and, if left unchecked, could conflagrate and consume all of us. Remember, you need a peaceful country before you can even dream of greatness. You need a united, strong and virile country to provide the necessary environment for your dreams to come true.

The Minister thanked the Social Media Influencers for their contribution to the success of the last general elections in the country that saw the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the ruling party, and urged them to partner with the Buhari Administration to drive the change agenda, which is aimed at achieving a paradigm shift in the way we do things.

The Minister assured that his doors are open and that he is willing to work with the Social Media Influencers in the interest of the good people of Nigeria.

”Feel free to call us to clarify issues, obtain facts and figures on issues of national interest and to also give us a feedback from the citizens. You are great Influencers, and you set the agenda. There is enormous power in your fingertips, and no one can ignore you,” he said.




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Copyright 2015 SIGNAL. Permission to use portions of this article is granted provided appropriate credits are given to and other relevant sources.

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