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VP Osinbajo calls for conventions, agreements to counter hate speech

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called for conventions and agreements between nations to regulate the social media and counter the phenomenon of hate speech.

Professor Osinbajo was speaking on Wednesday at the BBC Conference on Hate Speech held in Abuja as part of activities leading to Nigeria's 2019 general election.

According to the vice president, the social media are under multi-jurisdictional regulation, necessitating more collaboration among nations to regulate them.

In other words, shouldn't we be looking at some kinds of conventions, some kind of agreements between countries, between nations that help us to regulate the social media much more effectively, Osinbajo stated.

He said that a lot of disinformation in the public space at present comes from the social media, pointing out that the traditional press is obviously more responsible.

Osinbajo said that the reason why the traditional press is more responsible is because there is consequence.

The simple reason why they are more responsible is because there is consequence. It is easier to sue the traditional media. They are bound by local laws and it is much easier to hold them to account.

Freedom of information

However, Osinbajo expressed concern that it would be difficult to deal with consequence of such infractions associated with the social media without infringing on freedom of information and press freedom, which are fundamental rights.

So, freedom of the press means my freedom to own a blog, my freedom to disseminate information.

But the question is, how do we regulate that without infringing on these fundamental freedoms.

I think that at the end of the day it would come to some kind of a balance because, really, it would be impossible to regulate social media without substantially infringing on fundamental right, especially freedom of expression.

There is no way that you can leave that power in the hand of government or the hand of the legislature without your finding some level of overbearing activity on the path of the government or the legislature.

Media Accountability

Professor Osinbajo said there was need to interrogate even some of the information going into the traditional media, which are also seen in the social media.

What I find is that there is really no attempt to interrogate these things. And by that I mean not just fact checking, but also some investigation on the part of the traditional media.

He urged the media to go beyond getting two sides of a story to carry out independent investigations to ascertain the facts of every issue before publishing their stories.

Part of the BBC conference was a panel discussion that featured Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, a national Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Festus Okoye, a blogger, Uche Pedro and the Editor-in-Chief of national newspaper, Funke Egbemode.

Speaking, Okoye, who represented the Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, asked government agencies to be proactive in releasing information to avoid speculations.

I believe that if governments are proactive, if agencies are proactive, if parastatals are proactive in putting out information in the public space, the chances of fake news gaining ascendancy will be reduced.

But somebody who wants to misinform, somebody who wants to create confusion, somebody who wants to bring the country down will still go ahead with this type of information.

Okoye said that the INEC has decided to talk more to Nigerians and communicate its activities more effectively.

He said the commission would hold weekly press briefings to tell the people about its activities to ensure that those who put out fake news would not make any impact.

Professor Soyinka reminded journalists in Nigeria of the need to be more responsible in putting out information.

He said the consequences of many journalists copying what one of their colleagues has written could have far-reaching implications for society.

Earlier, the Head of West African Languages of the BBC World Service, Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, would hold 10 governorship language debates in Hausa, Igbo, Pidgin and Yoruba.

She also said the BBC would begin a countdown to the election on January 17 that will have specific content on election, ranging from interviews, analysis, voter education and vox pops.

Ogunseye said that the BBC would have 50 reporters that would cover the general election in Nigeria.

Source: Voice of Nigeria