A Professor at the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, Dr. Nduka Otiono, has declared that the media cannot be caged or arrested. He stated this while delivering the keynote speech at the maiden edition of the Jacksonites Professional Development Series, organized by the alumni association of the Mass Communication Department of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
The lecture series which is led by Chinedu Ihuoma Mba, a Jacksonite and Professor at Algonquin College, Ottawa, Canada, is tailored to “elicit and foster the collaboration of town and gown discourse and research in the Communications & Allied fields”.
In his lecture entitled A “Captured” Media in an Insecure Nation: Democracy, Hate Speech, and Free Speech on Trial?”, Dr. Otiono traced the history of hate speech and fake news from the 90s when rumours of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was spread through interpersonal communication to the hate advertorial against the then-candidate Buhari, by former Governor, Ayo Fayose in the build-up of 2015 general election and pointed out that toxic atmosphere in the country and erosions of trust has been central to the rise of fake speech and hate speech.
“Increasing agitation for the restructuring of the federation and concern over widening insecurity have become the gasoline inflaming mass movement, hate speech and repressive assault on fundamental human rights, including free speech as enshrined in the various local and universal charter.”
While stating that hate speech is difficult to define, he described the hate speech bill as amorphous, open to abuse, and obnoxious; thus the death of the bill on arrival.
Highlighting the hate speech in the days of Adolf Hitler, he wondered whether such hate would spread through Nigeria airwaves and social media and engulf the nation one day.
He is very confident that despite attempts to gag the free speech in Nigeria as seen in the ban of Twitter in Nigeria, the media cannot be arrested. He said, “In spite of the insecurity in the country, Nigeria media is one of the most vigorous in the world. Some of the veterans have been gorilla journalists under some of the most brutal dictatorships witnessed in our continent.
“Their resilience, the resilience of the Nigerian people as witnessed through the #EndSARS movement and the continued response and resistance to the different malaise affecting the country, points to the future that although the space may be choked (to use contemporary Nigerian slang), they are not perfectly going to be arrested. There is no arresting the media and the media cannot be captured.”
The senior special adviser to President Buhari, Mallam Garba Shehu, who is also a Jacksonite and participant in the seminar, remarked that hate speech has been the problem of humanity and stated that the likes of him that are in government always draw the attention of the leaders not to suppress the media.
“I don’t support subservient media. Some of us who are privileged to come close to those who are serving in government do ring the bell from time to time [to them]: do not be too aggressive in trying to limit free speech because there is that very thin line between it and an attack on freedom of expression. I think the enemy is the technology company. You cannot cage the press, you cannot chain it. The press in the country is healthy, it’s aggressive and will continue to be. Nobody can stop it.”
In her remark, Prof. Mba, the chairperson of the Steering Committee stated that the quarterly seminar is proof of commitment to advancement in professionalism and announced that the next seminar is in November 2021.
The event moderated by Veteran Journalist, Kingsley Osadolor ended with a remark by Prof. Pat Utomi, the Chairman of Jacksonite Worldwide, who is proud to see the success of the maiden edition of the programme.