26th August, 2021
Femi Falana, a Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist, has called on Nigerian journalists and concerned civil society organisations to self-regulate their use of social media to curb the spread of misinformation.
According to the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), such self-regulation would also stave off a likely shutdown of social media by the government.
Falana made this recommendation while delivering the keynote address at a workshop on “Fake News, Internet Shutdown and 2023 Elections,’’ in Lagos on Thursday.
Falana, noted that the abuse of social media often resulted in journalists being sued for libel or for terrorism.
He added that some journalists had also been charged under the Cybercrimes Act for misuse of the social media.
The human rights lawyer said to avoid such occurrences, civil society organisations (CSOs) and journalists should ensure that they self-regulate social media instead of depending on government to do same.
“I call on the Nigerian Guild of Editors, the Nigerian Union of Journalists and civil society organisations to sit down and ensure that suggestions are made on the responsible use of social media.
“This is necessary so that we will not continue to play into the hands of desperate anti-democratic forces that are bent on regulating the social media to suit their own selfish objectives,’’ he said
Falana added that instead of discussing the affairs of the country on the side-lines, CSOs should engage in ways to acquire political power to effect the desired change.
In his contribution, Mr Babajide Obanikoro, a lawmaker representing Eti-Osa Federal Constituency in Lagos State, emphasised the need for regulation, noting that all spheres of human life needed regulation, including the media.
He noted that since mainstream media was regulated, social media should not be an exception.
“I think social media has to be regulated; we have to ensure that anyone pushing out information does so responsibly,’’ he stressed.
In another contribution, Nollywood actor, Ms Kate Henshaw, said that government could not clamp down on freedom of expression in a democracy but should partner with CSOs to counter fake news.
“We cannot afford to be silent on the things that matter and bother on our everyday existence in Nigeria.
“This is our nation; this is our home, It is very important that we do not allow ourselves to be silenced. There is no freedom without sacrifice,’’ Henshaw said.
Earlier, Ms Mariam Ahmed, Assistant Project Officer at the Centre for the Advancement of Civil Liberties and Development (CFL), said CSOs had proffered alternative solutions to government on how to fight the spread of fake news.
The solutions, she said, were better than shutting down social media platforms.
Ahmed said the alternative solutions had been compiled into a document entitled “Democratic Solutions to Fake News and Hate Speech in Nigeria.’’
“We intend to present this document to lawmakers. This document shows what other democratic governments are doing against abuse of social media instead of shutting it down,’’ Ahmed said. (NAN)
The workshop was organised by the Voice Nigeria and CFL.