The Federal Government says it is committed to ensuring a responsible and ethical use of the social media and air waves and no amount of opposition will stop it from sanitising the two media platforms.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed stated this at the 2019 edition of the Annual Lecture of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) with the theme, “Extremism: Threat to National Unity”.
Mohammed said that since he announced government’s plan to sanitise both the broadcast industry and the social media, there have been varying reactions from Nigerians.
He said while the government welcome the national discourse on the issue, it would not be coerced to abandoning the ongoing plans to sanitise the two media platforms.
” For the umpteenth time, I want to say that responsible and ethical journalists, and indeed all patriots, have nothing to fear, only anarchists and non-patriots, the purveyors of fake news and hate speech, need to worry.
“This Administration has no intention to gag the media or stifle free speech, but it also won’t sit by and allow hate speech to become free speech.
“As I have said at many fora, 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 endanger our national unity.
“So, while we welcome the support of most Nigerians who have reached out to us on the need to clean up the air waves and the social media, we also note the criticism of those who oppose our efforts,” he said.
The minister noted that extremists had turned the airwaves and social media to platforms for disseminating fake news and hate speech and the government would not relent until they are sanitised.
“Let me quickly say that some of the tools of choice for extremists to propagate their dangerous ideas include unbridled propaganda, fake news and hate speech.
“The power of the social media, radio and television, including their wide reach, means that we should not allow extremists to turn these powerful media platforms into catalyst for conflict,” he said.
The minister thanked FRCN for the choice of the topic for the lecture, stressing that it would go a long way in helping the people to understand the dangers extremism posed to national unity.
The Chairman of the event, Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno said the state was worst hit by extremism, which had affected socio-economic development of the state.
Zulum represented by his Deputy, Alhaji Usman Khalifu said social media and radio should be used to reorientate the youths and sensitise them to the evils of extremism.
Hon. Segun Odebunmi, the Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Information and National Orientation said extremism had caused the nation a lot of human and material loss.
The lawmaker assured that the National Assembly would make necessary laws and support the executive in the efforts to combat the evils.
The guest speaker, Prof. Kursim Leonard-Fur from Haifa University, Israel, said that extremism “is a threat that knows no bound and it sits at the forefront of today’s policy discussion in America, Europe and other parts of the globe”
The former Vice Chancellor of Birngham University, Abuja, said in Africa, 33,000 fatalities were estimated to have been caused by extremism between 2011 and 2016.
The don identified gap between government failures and citizens aspirations among the reasons facilitating the spread of extremism.
In dealing with extremism, Leonard-Fur said the government must understand that it is dealing with a state of mind that have to be transformed.
He, therefore, suggested that the government must deploy ideological prowess rather than “kinetic prowess” that is the use of force in addressing extremism and terrorism.
“Violence driven by ideology can be effectively countered only by more powerful ideological arguments,” he said.
The Director-General of FRCN, Dr Mansur Liman earlier in a welcome address, said the 2019 edition of the lecture and the 13th in the series was a watershed.
He explained that the topic was chosen to address the topical issues of fake news and hate speech, which are twin evils being used by extremists to tear the country apart.