Dangers of not passing Hate Speech Bill, by Abdullahi



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Dangers of not passing Hate Speech Bill, by Abdullahi

 Sanni Onogu, Abuja



 

Senate Deputy Chief Whip Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi has said opponents of the Hate Speech Bill are ignorant of the dangers of not passing it into law.



In a statement yesterday in Abuja, the proponent of the Bill said its opponents were only pretending to protect Freedom of Speech by misinforming Nigerians about the intent of the legislation before the National Assembly.

He warned Nigerians to beware of “false information being spilled out by some persons and groups parading themselves as serving the interest of the nation”.

Citing a report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) titled: Overcoming Dangerous Speech and Endemic Religious Divides in Central Nigeria, Abdullahi said those with strong bias capable of escalating ethnic and religious violence were infiltrating the media.

According to him, such persons and groups are opposed to the National Assembly passing the Hate Speech law that will end their trade of using ethnic and religious bias to realise self-serving interests.

“Both Christians and Muslims have said the media blatantly expresses bias against their religions and that journalists will deliberately not report their stories or perspective.

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“Outside the immediate communities affected by a specific incident, the general public’s understanding of violent events is often incomplete.

“In some cases, false news about attacks has incited the people to undertake revenge attacks in various parts of the country,” he said, quoting the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report.

Abdullahi, who cited another report by the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), said there were indicators making it imperative for the introduction of legislation by the National Assembly to criminalise Hate Speech, which he said is responsible for high cases of violence and killing.

The CITAD report reads: “In 2017, Nigeria experienced the continuation of three major conflicts that provided a fertile ground for the propagation of hate speech.

“These were the resurgence of the Biafra Agitation in the Southeast, the clash between the Army and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), popularly referred to as the Shiites Movement in the Northwest, and the transformation of the localised farmers-herders conflict and cattle rustling to the large scale rural banditry that had taken an ethno-religious character across much of the Northwest and Northcentral zones of the country.

“Across the country, scores of people were killed as a result of these conflicts, further providing fuel for the wildfire of hate speech.

“More than at any time in the recent history of the country, hate speech became widely used in public discourse and communication.

“They fuelled a dynamic that weakened national cohesion and made it difficult for the country to collectively address the threat to peace that affected the population in the country.”

Dangers of not passing Hate Speech Bill, by Abdullahi

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