Nigeria: almost a hundred NGOs call on the Senate to reject Anti-Social Media Bill

March 5, 2020
Gabriel Ewepu in the Vanguard of 5 March 2020 reports that 95 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), under the auspices of Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Protection of Civic Space, called on the Nigerian Senate to reject the Anti-Social Media Bill. This call was contained in a statement signed by leaders of the 95 during a media conference in Abuja. The statement reads in part:

We are gathered here today to report the summary of the people’s and civil society’s analyses of the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations; and for Related matters Bill, 2019 (SB.132), ahead of the Senate public hearing slated for 9th March 2020. We are glad to inform the members of the Senate and the International Community, that the Anti-Social Media Bill 2019 (SB.132) has been widely and popularly rejected by the people…
The latest attempt by the Senate to resuscitate an obnoxious bill that had been hitherto unanimously rejected by the people constitutes an assault on the people and a flagrant assault on the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) which guarantees the human rights of everyone including to freedom of expression. The people have overwhelmingly rejected any attempt to police the internet and gag the right to freedom of expression through back doors. “It has been affirmed several in various courts of law that the right to freedom of expression is a constitutional and fundamental right; inviolable under the 1999 constitution…
We urge the National Assembly, in particular, the Senate to view the internet platforms as the independent dashboard of ideas where people can freely exchange ideas and express their opinions or thoughts. Meanwhile, the coalition also decried attacks on journalists and media freedom, which it said has become a worrisome trend in the country. “Media freedom in Nigeria remains under attack, as shown by several cases of arrests and detention of journalists, bloggers and social media activists in the last four years.
This trend suggests a disturbing trend toward repression of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in the country. The Internet/Social Media bill, the fast-shrinking civic space and the clampdown on critics of the government have shown a rising pattern of suppression.

The 9th Senate is therefore urged to take historical note of how previous sessions of the National Assembly had sided with the people and resisted executive overbearing and repression, thereby safeguarding the civic space, and ensuring respect for Nigeria’s international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Nigeria has ratified both treaties and has even gone ahead to domesticate the African Charter as part of Nigerian laws”, it also stated.

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