By Oluwaseun Sonde, Abuja.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has challenged the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to lead the ongoing efforts to rid the social media of fake news and hate speech.
Receiving the national executive of the NUJ led by its President, Mr. Chris Isiguzo, during a courtesy visit to his office on Monday, the Minister said it is in the interest of the NUJ and other media bodies to be in the vanguard of the campaign.
‘’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,’’ he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said the plan by the Federal Government to regulate the social media is not aimed at gagging journalists or stifling free
speech, saying ‘’only the purveyors of fake news and hate speech need to be worried.’’
He assured that the federal government will not act unilaterally in deciding the strategy to adopt in regulating the social media, saying: ‘’We will work with stakeholders, including the NUJ, Guild of Editors, Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, the Civil Society, Online Publishers, Bloggers, etc.’’
He said while the debate on the social media regulation has been robust, with some commentators supporting the plan and others opposing it, the federal government will not relent in its quest to inject sanity into the social media.
‘’Let me be clear: We are going ahead with our plan to stop, as much as we can, the anarchists, non-patriots and purveyors of fake news and
hate speeches. No responsible government will sit by and allow these purveyors of fake news and hate speech a free reign. That’s why many countries of the world are taking measures to regulate the social media,’’ Alhaji Mohammed said. He listed the options open to the government in regulating the social media as including technology, legislation and the use of regulatory bodies.
‘’It is up to the stakeholders to decided 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,’’ the Minister said
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.