The Nigerian Guild of Editors has called on the Federal Government to rescind its decision to regulate the social media.
The guild, in a communiqué issued after the meeting of its standing committee on November 8, 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”.
The communique was signed by Acting NGE President Mustapha Isah and General Secretary Mary Atolagbe.
The NGE reminded the government that similar attempts in the past to“gag freedom of speech” were misconstrued by security agents and public officials to harass, arrest and in most cases, illegally detain journalists and other Nigerians for holding their opinions.
It advised that rather than go ahead with the decision, the government should seek ways to maximize social media to disseminate information on the activities and policies of government.
“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 communique said.
It said Nigerian has enough extant laws, including the Cyber Crime Act 2015, to deal with issues of ‘hate speech’ and ‘fake news’.
The NGE also called on “government and security agencies to release to release forthwith all journalists being detained nationwide, as their continued detention run contrary to the grains of the constitution.”