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Lai Mohammed justifies N5m as fine for hate speech

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Lai Mohammed justifies N5m as fine for hate speech

Lai Mohammed justifies N5M as fine for hate speech

The Federal Government has clarified that any expression, broadcast or publication ridiculing any individual, a group of people on the basis of their sex, religion , political opinion or origin is expression of hate.

Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed provided the details on Thursday when he featured on the Nigeria News Agency (NAN) Forum held at the headquarters of the agency in Abuja.

He said;

“Any broadcast or publication that is an assault on our unity and shared value that threatens to erode social harmony is hate speech.

“People who go on television and denigrate one or the other person with a view to causing social disharmony have violated the code of hate speech.

“They know what they are doing, and they must be made to pay for it,” the minister said in the amended National Broadcasting Code, while justifying the increase in hate speech fine from N500,000 to N5 m.

The minister said the fine was imposed for national security and acted as a warning to those who were willing to destabilize the country by using fake news and hate speech.

“No country will sit down or fold its arms and be ruined by fake news or hate speech, particularly in Nigeria where we are divided along ethnicity, religion and culture.

“In fact what we observed was that when there was just half a million in the fine for hate speech, people became irresponsible because they could easily pay the half a million.

“In fact, our findings show that when people take ads to broadcasting houses and the broadcast houses reject the ad on the ground that if they air them they will be fined half a million Naira, the hate speech provider will say, don’t worry, we ‘re going to pay you N1 million extra.

‘With the N5 million we want to see if they are going to add another N10 million to their ad prices.

“It’s very realistic for us and we disagree with those who said it’s barbaric because we want to safeguard Nigeria from hate speech distributors,” he said.

Mohammed said hate speech had a long history and because of its potential threat to national security and cohesion, the government had been proactive in addressing the threat.

In 2017, he recounted that the ministry had dedicated a whole National Information Council meeting to addressing the impact of fake news and hate speech.

He also established a major campaign against hate speech and false news, the minister said, and embarked on outreach visits to media houses across the country on its risks.

Talking of the consequences of hate speech, Mohammed said it contributed to genocide in Rwanda where more than 800,000 lives were lost as well as murders in Bosnia and Cambodia.

“What we do in terms of punishment is insignificant compared to what has been done in other countries such as Iceland, Norway, UK , Germany and South Africa where hate speech is criminalized.

“Hate speech in many nations, including the UK and South Africa, attracts either fines or prison time, or both,” he said.

The minister added that the social media has amplified the danger of hate speech and fake news, and the government would not yield in its determination to regulate the platform without restricting speech freedom.

Hossana C. Infozer, you can link up with me via social media platforms @officialinfozer.

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