Twenty-nine civil society organisations have asked the Nigerian Senate to publish the report of the public hearing conducted on the infamous Social Media Bill.
The groups condemned the Nigerian Government for trying to unnecessarily regulate the usage of the social media in the country.
The 29 CSOs stated that the regulation of social media was not only antithetical to democratic norms but also a blatant attempt to infringe on citizens’ rights to freedom of expression.
The CSOs that made the call include the Centre for Liberty, Dinidari Foundation, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, FEMBUD, Centre for Impact Advocacy, Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga (Media and Press Freedom Advocate, Lex Initiative for Rights Advocacy and Development, Raising New Voices Initiative, TechHerNG and Invictus Africa.
Others are Education as a Vaccine, Women's Health and Equal Rights Initiative, Youth Concerns Development Foundation-Africa, Adopt A Goal Initiative, Concerned Nigerians Group, Free Nigeria Coalition, Mothers And Marginalised Advocacy Centre, TRIBE XX LAB, Sterling Centre for Law and Development, Access to Justice, Enough is Enough, Center for Fairness on Public Administration, Stand To End Rape Initiative, GlobalRights, Haly Hope Foundation, Girl Child Enlightenment and Intervention Centre, YIAGA AFRICA, The Interactive Initiative for Social Impact, and Let’s Help Humanitarian Foundation.
They posited that regulating the social media will further shrink the civic space and prove to the world that Nigeria does not honour its commitments to the various international human rights instruments to which it was a recognised signatory.
“More importantly, we consider the lingering silence of the Nigerian Senate regarding the report of the public hearing on the social media bill since the 9th of March 2020, to be of great disservice to the Nigerian people.
“There has never been a more important time, for the Senate to make public the content of the report on the public hearing on the social media bill, led by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele’s Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
“We, therefore, remind the Nigerian Senate that its primary responsibility is to serve the Nigerian people and to advance policies that are genuinely tailored to enhance public good.
“And so, we unreservedly call on the Senate to make the committee’s report following the public hearing, public as a matter of urgency and responsibility. We further reiterate the fact that the social media bill was overwhelmingly rejected during the public hearing and this should be adequately represented in the committee’s report,” the CSOs said in a joint statement.
The CSOs hope the Social Media Bill would subsequently be removed from further consideration upon the publication of the committee’s report.
They stated that there were many democratic ways through which the Nigerian Government could deal with the menace of fake news and misinformation in our society without eroding human rights.
“Such tools and processes should not stifle the voices of citizens or create punitive legislations.
“The entire African continent and the world are watching to see how Nigeria deals with this important issue.
“We hope our leaders would stand with the people for the sake of peace and unity in our beloved country,” the CSOs added.