Senate In Shocking Move To Gag Freedom Of Expression

Saraki Senate President

The Nigerian Senate is in the process of passing a Bill that effectively makes freedom of expression a  luxury, as the legislation indirectly targeted at the social media passed a second reading on Wednesday.

The Bill, sponsored by Ibn Na’Allah, if passed into law will prescribe a two-year jail term or fine of N4 million for anybody who publishes an unsubstantiated article or petition against another person.

“Where any person in order to circumvent this law makes any allegation and or publish any statement, petition in any paper, radio, or any medium of whatever description, with malicious intent to discredit or set the public against any person or group of persons, institutions of government, he shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction, shall be liable to an imprisonment term of two years or a fine of N4,000,000.00”, the new law specifies.

More worrying, however, is the fact that the Bill tagged “A Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected therewith” further goes to say sending a text message or posting a message on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and other social media platforms that is deemed to be in violation of the law will attract two years imprisonment or a N2 million fine.






     

     

    “Where any person through text message, tweets, WhatsApp or through any social media post any abusive statement knowing same to be false with intent to set the public against any person and group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction, shall be liable to an imprisonment for two years or a fine of N2,000,000.00 or both fine and imprisonment,” it states.

    The Bill also makes it hard for people to submit a petition without a court affidavit, which attracts a six month jail sentence. Also, whoever uses such petition, including the media, will be liable to six months imprisonment without an option of fine.

    According to the sponsor of the Bill, it is to provide punishment for those seeking to tarnish the image of others and to save the government the resources and time that will be wasted investigating frivolous petitions.

    While urging his colleagues to support the Bill, Na’Allah said that the important thing to consider is “whether having passed the Freedom of Information Act which gives unfettered access by the public information from government offices they would be right for this government to continue to waste valuable time and resources in investigating frivolous petitions from the same public and I am sure you would find no difficulty in saying no to the ugly situation.”

     

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