Social media bill passage’ll heat up polity – CSOs

A coalition of civil society organisations has described as obnoxious, the strident demand for the passage of the social media bill which it described as insensitive, retrogressive and anti-democracy.

The coalition noted that the passage of the bill would further agitate the polity and widen Nigerians’ distrust of the government.

This was contained in a statement issued by 15 CSOs on Saturday, titled, ‘CSOs decry growing calls for the passage of the social media bill’.

The groups include the Centre for Liberty; Africa Caribbean Heritage Alliance; TACT; Haly Hope Foundation; Raising New Voices Initiative; Girl Child Empowerment and Intervention Centre; Centre for Impact Advocacy; Dinidari Foundation, Enough is Enough, among others.

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It stated, “We have watched with dismay the growing demand from different individuals and government affiliates following the crucial role the social media has played in the recent EndSARS protest, that the social media bill should be quickly passed by the National Assembly.

“The overwhelming demand for police reform in Nigeria today is a product of government’s insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians for a very long time. In the same way, any attempt to pass the social media bill will only further agitate the polity and widen the distrust of Nigerians towards the government.”

Given the escalation of violence against peaceful protesters in Lekki, Lagos and other parts of the country, the coalition said it has become extremely important for the government to demonstrate its commitment to accountability to the people, stressing that the social media remained a very crucial platform where citizens can lead such conversation.

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Besides, the group argued that recent developments in the country had proved that social media is playing an invaluable role in deepening Nigeria’s democracy and promoting citizens’ demand for accountability.

The civil society groups advised that the important thing for the government at this time is to consider any conversation about restricting digital freedom or freedom of speech as a threat to Nigerians and the civic space.

The coalition added, “It is our hope, therefore, that the National Assembly would take the lead in demonstrating government’s commitment to the Nigerian people in these trying times, and kill the social media bill once and for all, and make sure that a more democratic approach is employed to deal with fake news in the country.”

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