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#EndSARS: We’ll ensure responsible use of social media – FG

By Oluwaseun Sonde

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The Federal Government of Nigeria, has claimed that social media was used to guide arsonists and looters during the EndSARS violence, while pictures of some celebrities and non-Nigerians, allegedly killed at the Lekki Toll Gate by soldiers were widely spread, as government will act to ensure a responsible use of social media.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed disclosed this during a stakeholders’ meeting with members of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) in Abuja on Friday, he said social media has come to stay, and those who use it responsibly have nothing to fear, but government cannot give the same assurance for those who weaponize social media.

According to him, “Social media was used to guide arsonists and looters to certain properties, both public and private, during the EndSARS violence. Then, pictures of persons, including some celebrities and even non-Nigerians, who were supposedly killed at the Lekki Toll Gate by soldiers, were circulated widely, only for those persons to refute such claims.

“This brings me to the issue of social media regulation. You must have heard about the hoopla this issue has generated in the media. Well, I want to confirm that we will definitely act to ensure a responsible use of social media. You may call that regulation. But that is not the same as stifling press freedom or free speech. No. Fake news and disinformation are not the same as free speech.

“This government has no plan to stifle free speech, neither do we have any intention of shutting down the internet. Social media has come to stay, and those who use it responsibly have nothing to fear. But we cannot give the same assurance for those who weaponize social media. As issue of regulating social media content is generating debate around the world, so Nigeria is not an exception”, he said.

Alhaji Lai appealed to broadcast stations to avoid using unverified information from social media, as this is fraught with danger. “Despite the temptation, the stations must adhere strictly to the gate-keeping tradition instead of rushing to use materials that are not authenticated. “It’s no longer news that three broadcast stations were sanctioned in the aftermath of EndSARS.

“Some analysts have attempted to muddy the waters by alleging an attempt to stifle the media. This is sheer red herring. The simple truth is that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) imposed fines on the three broadcast stations for using unverified and dangerous information from social media. Two of the stations have paid in full, while one has paid in part”, he said.

He added that Federal Government was not only responsive but was also very responsible in its handling of the demands of the EndSARS protesters. “We met the five demands. Some, like disbandment of SARS, were met immediately while we kickstarted the process of meeting others that cannot be done with an immediate pronouncement.

“In accordance with the directive of Mr. President, Ministers have since gone back to their respective states to meet with stakeholders in the wake of the protest and its aftermath. A Federal Government delegation has also visited the various zones to consult with stakeholders. There is no doubt that the outcome of these consultations will feed into an overall review of the whole crisis by the Federal Government”, he said.





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