The Nigerian Guild of Editors has called on the Federal Government to rescind its decision to regulate social media and instead seek ways to maximize the use of it to disseminate information.
The Guild, which gave the advice in a communiqué issued on Monday after a meeting of its standing committee, said the government’s plan on social media contravenes Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which guarantees every Nigerian citizen the right to “freedom of expression, including the right to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
In the communiqué signed by its Acting President, Mustapha Isah and General Secretary, Mary Atolagbe, the Guild reminded government that similar attempts in the past to “gag freedom of speech” was most times seen as an opportunity by security agents to harass, arrest and in most cases, illegally detain journalists and other Nigerians for expressing their opinions.
“The Guild urges the government to engage the founders and promoters of social media, namely: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter among others – to creatively find ways of sieving information disseminated through their respective channels, to curtail extremism of violence and hate speech.
“Recognising that Nigeria is already in the red zone of nations with very poor record of Press Freedom and Freedom of Speech, the Guild notes, for instance, that the 2019 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders places Nigeria in a distant 120th position among 180 nations under review,” the communiqué said.
The advice by the editors comes a few days after the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto State, Matthew Kukah, also cautioned the federal government on the proposed move to regulate social media.
Kukah, who spoke at the convocation lecture of Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State, last Friday said the proposed move could hinder freedom of speech.
He noted that a nation thrives on free flow of ideas and information among its citizenry and added that ethnicity and religion had become liabilities in Nigerian context.
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