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Hate Speech: SERAP asks Buhari to reverse N5m fine, vows to go to court

By Vincent UFUOMA


The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately reverse the sudden increase in hate speech fine announced on Tuesday.

Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, while unveiling the Reviewed Broadcasting Code in Lagos on Tuesday , announced that the Federal Government has increased the fine on hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million.

According to the minister, the hike was necessitated by a “presidential directive, in the wake of the 2019 general elections, for an inquiry into the regulatory role of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) as well as the conduct of the various broadcast stations before, during and after the elections.”

He equally said the decision was approved by the President.

However, in a statement on Tuesday, SERAP said the sudden increase is unconstitutional and illegal, and should therefore be reversed.

“We’re calling on President Buhari to immediately reverse the unconstitutional and illegal increase in ‘hate speech fine’ from N500,000 to N5 million,” SERAP said in a Twitter message.

“We’ll fight to challenge this illegality in court to make sure that the fine doesn’t become another tool for repression.

“This fine would further curtail freedom of expression and open the door for law enforcement officials to target critics.”

The organisation vowed to contest the legality of the fine in court if it is not immediately reversed.

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“The fine fails to meet the standards of legality, necessity and proportionality in article 19(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” SERAP said.

The Buhari government should be removing restrictions on freedom of expression, not imposing heavy fines that risk stifling critical public debate on important issues,” it said.

SERAP enjoined the leadership of the National Assembly to publicly condemn the acts.

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