A member of the Osun State House of Assembly representing Obokun State Constituency, Honourable Olatunbosun Oyintiloye, has said any exertion by the Nigerian Senate to constrain the civil liberties of its citizenry in expressing themselves on social media platforms amounts to repression and a repeat of the impunity that pervaded governance in the inglorious days of the military era.
Oyintiloye who is the Chairman, House Committee on Information and Strategy in the Assembly spoke at an interactive session with a group of bloggers and social media enthusiasts in Osogbo.
He spoke on the backdrop of the proposed bill, titled “Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected Therewith (SB.143)”, sponsored by the Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah.
The bill stipulates two-year jail term and option of N2 million upon conviction for anyone who posts abusive statements on the social media, while it would becomes unlawful for anyone to submit any petition, and statement intended to report the conduct of any person for the purpose of an investigation, inquiry without a duly sworn affidavit.
The bill equally stipulates that any petition or complaints not accompanied by a sworn affidavit would be considered incompetent and cannot be used by any government institution, agency or bodies established by any law for the time being enforced in Nigeria.
Oyintiloye expressed confidence in the assurances given by the, Senate President Bukola Saraki that any objectionable area of the bill would be expunged.
He said the media landscape globally had metamorphosed and its art and discipline had evolved to absorb the New Media otherwise known as the social media, explaining that the passage of any bill that could gag the people’s freedom of expression would not only make a parody of democracy in Nigeria, but also engender apathy amongst the nation’s allies and the international community.
He further averred that the social media provided enormous channels for unfettered expression and the enrichment of freedom of speech, which, he asserts, is an indispensable hallmark of democracy and an open society.
The lawmaker however, expressed dissatisfaction at members of the online community preoccupied with smearing the reputation of notable individuals, corporate and public figures, describing these persons as grossly insensitive.
He noted that the supposed problems associated with social media are inherent in the personalities involved and their contentment with churning out malicious information without apology, rather than the vehicle through which they find the expression.
“The new media came with the dynamics of breaking news efficiently through space and time with little or no money and to a large extent gave utterance as well as puissance to the common man. It is however regrettable that many players and stakeholders in the craft lack an understanding of the actual workings of journalism.
“It is also disheartening that amidst the very few with this knowledge, some have deliberately thrown the ethos of journalism into the garbage, hence leaving no room for objectivity, truthfulness and balance.
“As such, sentiments, desperation and fallacies are brought into social media posts with the end product being a body of lies, distorted facts, and half truths”, he stressed.
Oyintiloye then noted that existing law as it relates to slander could be applied where such cases are established rather than using infamous, uncivil and pedestrian means to cage information disclosure on the social media, just as he was of the opinion that the extant laws on media regulation could be amended to accommodate the emerging world of the New Media.
The Lawmaker further hinted that the new media by its configuration sidestepped any form of editorial interjection, which, he described, as leverage and a quicksand to the profession.
Criticising online publishers who preferred to publish before verifying the authenticity of their claims, all in the name of being the first to break the news, the lawmaker charged online publishers to desist from such practise.
He tasked leaders at all levels to avoid the path of cyber terror through a bill that would muzzle expression and open up a new layer of social distress and activism.
He tasked media practitioners to horn their skills in media technology and brainstorms ideas to expunge rascally elements in the system, and possibly blacklist them so that the public can be wary of their propagation of error.
The parliamentarian urged media professionals to take advantage of the gamut of social media tools and ensure that the voice of truth is made louder than the echo of lies.
Oyintiloye however urged the Chairman of the National Assembly to invite major stakeholders in the Social Media platform to discuss the nitty-gritty of the proposed bill, with a view to enlisting lucidity of its contents and douse the tension being generated.