Sanitizing broadcast, social media will curb extremism- Minister

Solomon Chung, Abuja

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The Nigerian government believes that sanitizing the country’s broadcast industry as well as social media space will help in curbing extremism in the country.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed disclosed this in Abuja on Thursday at the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria’s 2019 Annual Lecture with the theme, Extremism: A threat to National Unity.

The Minister charged all Nigerians to acknowledged, appreciate and also most importantly, join hands with the government to fight extreme because of the imminent danger it poses to Nigeria’s unity.

Mr. Mohammed said the government was doing everything possible to have a better media space for the benefit of all and for the good of the society.

The Minister asserted that whether in the area of politics, ethnicity or religion, extremists are tugging at the very core of the country’s national unity.

 

He further stated that  the tell-tale signs of extremism are all too glaring around , whether it is the secessionist agitations, growing ethnic nationalism, religious extremism or even banditry and insurgency.

 

According to the Minister some of the tools of choice for extremists to propagate their dangerous ideas include unbridled propaganda, fake news and hate speech.

 

“These are very potent tools in the hands of extremists, whether they are secessionists, ultra-nationalists, religious extremists or even insurgents. And that explains why, since 2017, we have been campaigning against fake news and hate speech.

“Last July, we launched the National Campaign on Fake News and Hate Speech, and we have recently upped the ante by moving ahead to inject sanity into our broadcast industry.

“The power of radio and television, including their wide reach, means that we should not allow extremists to turn these powerful media platforms into catalyst for conflict. Mr. President has graciously approved our recommendations to rid our airwaves of fake news and hate speech, especially coming on the heels of the unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations before and during the last general elections.

The recommendations include the independence of the broadcast regulators, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), from political interference in the exercise of its regulatory powers; A review of the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect some amendments, including upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency. Willful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station will attract suspension of license, while the breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments has been upgraded to ”Class A” offence in the Broadcasting Code…”

The Minister said already government has worked out the modalities for injecting sanity into the Social Media space, which some extremists have turned to a platform for disseminating fake news and hate speech.

“Since announcing our plan to sanitize both the broadcast industry and the Social Media, there have been varying reactions from Nigerians. I must say this is welcome. It’s exactly what we want: National discourse on the responsible use of the airwaves and the social media.

“But, for the umpteenth time, I want to say that responsible and ethical journalists, and indeed all patriots, have nothing to fear. Only anarchists and non-patriots, the purveyors of fake news and hate speech, need to worry.

This Administration has no intention to gag the media or stifle free speech, but it also won’t sit by and allow hate speech to become free speech.”

Speaking earlier, the Director General Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria Mansur Liman said the organization carefully choose topics annually in the lecture to put such on the front burner of national discourse so as to fins solutions to such issues for the betterment of the country.

The guest lecturer, Professor Leonard Fwa submitted that extremists use ideology as their main weapon and as such, to defeat them a superior ideology must also be deployed. So he said it is an ideological battle that is used.