By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Ahead of the general elections commencing in February, 2019, Lagos State Commissioner for Home Affairs, Abdul-Hakeem Abdul-Lateef and veteran journalist and lawyer, Richard Akinnola, have tasked Nigerian media to be wary and guide against hate speeches and false news publication which they claimed had been rampant in the country.
They spoke at the 2018 Press Week of Lagos Governor’s Press Corps in Ikeja, Lagos, which was attended by Chairman, Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, Lagos State, Dr. Qusim Akinreti.
Abduhakeem, charged journalists to be wary of the danger posed by fake news, especially as the 2019 general elections drew nearer.
He therefore, appealed to journalists to address the issue of voters apathy, saying, that this could be improved upon by good reportage.
According to him, “If the media did not perform their duties of informing and educating electorate properly, the electoral process could witness a disaster.
“The media must perform their duties effectively or we witness a disaster. Fake news must be dealt with. A large percent of what is on social media is fake, people just drop anything-slander and the rest. Fake News must be dealt with,” he added.
Also, Akinnola, who delivered a lecture, titled, “The Media, Democracy and Good Governance,” lamented that the issues of hate speeches and fake news crept in to an alarming proportion in the last few years.
“As purveyors of information, the media have to be circumspect in publishing and sharing certain information, particularly in this era of social media.
“In August 2017, the then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, hinted that hate speeches would now be termed a variant of terrorism. He was obviously reacting to a new media pest known as hate speech. It is necessary for us to look at current provisions in the Criminal Code which may likely deal with this challenge,” he said.
Akinnola said, though, he was a staunch advocate of freedom of expression, no freedom was absolute, stressing that for every right, there was a corresponding limitation and responsibility.
He stated that South Africa and Kenya, apart from constitutional provisions, had taken legal steps to stem the tide of hate speeches, by promulgating laws and acts.
“It would, therefore, not be out of place for Nigeria to similarly promulgate such a law which specifically deals with hate speeches, despite certain provisions in our statutes that indirectly try to deal with such infractions.
“If a new law is coming, it has to be well defined on what amounts to hate speech because our freedom of expression was not won on a platter of gold in Nigeria, but through various litigation. I envisaged that such a law on hate speech is going to be contested in court on how to delineate what hate speech is,” he said.
Akinnola also warned the media to double-check information gotten online before publication in order to avoid defamation, slander and sedition.