• Raises fine from N500, 000 to N5m
By Tobias Lengnam
The Federal Government has handed down stern warning to erring media organisations to steer clear of fake news and hate speech or face the full wrath of the law.
Information and Culture minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed handed down the new government position on fake news and hate speech at a news conference in Abuja yesterday.
He said the new position has become imperative in the face of recurring incidences of fake news and hate speech, despite sustained campaign against the menace by this government.
The minister said already, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved, among others, the recommendation for an upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency by broadcast houses and other media outlets.
Wilful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station will attract suspension of license, he said.
Upgrade of breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to ‘’Class A’’ offence in the Broadcasting Code is also approved by the president, he added.
He said his office has already constituted a committee for the implementation of the recommendations approved by the president to inject sanity into the nation’s broadcast industry, following the unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations, especially before and during the last general elections.
Some of the approved recommendations he said include : Independence of the NBC from political interference in the exercise of its regulatory powers, particularly with respect to the issuance and withdrawal of broadcasting license;
A review of the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect the following amendments;
Amendment of the NBC Act to enable NBC license WebTv and radio stations;
Recruitment of more monitoring staff for the NBC;
Deployment of adequate monitoring equipment and technologies for the NBC and;
Enhancement of welfare packages of NBC staff to avoid their compromise in the line of duty.
The Information Minister noted that these measures by FG should not be.misconstrued as intention to stifle free speech or gag journalists or anyone.
“Again, this Administration has no intention of muzzling the media or stifling free speech. Our campaign is against fake news and hate speech. However, if you engage in disseminating fake news or hate speech, you need to be worried, because we will not spare you. We cannot allow fake news and hate speech to become free speech, because these Siamese Twins of Evil are capable of inflicting untold damage on our democracy and threatening our national unity.
“They represent a clear and imminent danger to our survival as a nation,” he said.
According to Lai Mohammed, the committee is also saddled with ending all forms of monopoly detrimental to the actualization of the immense potential of the broadcast industry.
“A situation where a few people corner a chunk.of the industry to the detriment of others, especially our teeming and talented youths, is totally unacceptable and untenable.
“ Once the committee submits its report, we will immediately ‘kick-start the implementation of the approved measures to inject sanity into our broadcast industry.”
He added that no amount of attacks, sponsored or otherwise, will stop the implementation of the approved recommendations. And only non-patriots and anarchists will kick.against measures aimed at putting an end to fake news and hate speech,especially in our broadcast industry.
He noted that government is also working on how to inject sanity into the Social Media space which, today, is totally out of control
“No responsible government will sit by and allow fake news and hate speech to dominate its media space, because of the capacity of this menace to exploit our national fault lines to set us against each other and trigger a national conflagration.
“That is why we will continue to evolve ways to tackle fake news and hate speech until we banish both,” he said.