• Describes action as terrorism, says promoters risk punishment
• NBC moves against phone-in programmes
• Imposes N.5m fine against erring stations
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) has said that the Federal Government will no longer tolerate hate speeches in the country, saying that the infamous act is tantamount to terrorism.
Osinbajo stated this on Thursday, during the National Economic Council security retreat held at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
According to Osinbajo, the intimidation of a population by words or speech is an act of terrorism; and will no longer be tolerated by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
He also warned that the government intends to take the matter seriously.
He said, “As I have said, we have drawn a line against hate speech, it will not be tolerated, it will be taken as an act of terrorism; and all of the consequences will follow.”
The acting president further called on Nigerian business, political and religious leaders to condemn hate speeches that promote violence against an individual or a group, especially when such speech comes from people of your own faith, tribe or group.
He said, “When leaders in communities that speak in such a manner to create dissension or intimidate the population are quiet, they do a great disservice to our unity, they do a great disservice to our nation. Your silence in such situation can only be seen as an endorsement.
“This is why I urge all political leaders, religious leaders, business leaders and all of those who truly want a united country, a country where there will be peace and security to ensure that we do not tolerate by our silence the hate speech that we hear every day in community.”
Osinbajo also stated that the primary purpose of government is to provide security and welfare of the people, saying that the current administration would not relent in its effort at ensuring a secured country in which all citizens can confidently aspire to achieve their means and ambition.
He also reminded the audience that the Buhari -led administration came with a vision that covers three key areas, which are security, economy and the fight against corruption.
He said without guaranteeing security, however, Nigeria would struggle to attract the kind of investments, domestic or foreign, needed to create jobs and prosperity for the people.
Meanwhile, in its quest to check the prevailing hate speeches in the country, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), has said that it will fine broadcast stations a sum of N500, 000 for any perceived hate speech expressed by callers during phone-in programmes.
The Daily Times also gathered that the new rule, which will take effect on October 1, 2017, was communicated to media houses on August 10 during a meeting held at the commission’s zonal office at Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos.
The Zonal Director of NBC, Matthew Okoduwa, expressed worries at the meeting over some comments made by some Nigerians during phone-in segments of live programmes.
Okoduwa also blamed presenters and show anchors for giving people the opportunity to air hateful statements on live shows, adding that he understood that many Nigerians are angry and frustrated about the state of the nation, but hate speech is not the way to express such frustration.
He observed that the country is very volatile, hence, the need for media houses to control unguarded comments made by Nigerians on television and radio stations.
He also said newspaper reviews should be aired once a day; and urged viewers and listeners to contribute such reviews on social media rather than on television or radio programmes.
“Newspaper reviews can only be broadcast once a day in a station. Anything more than that would amount to a breach of the new rule,” he emphasized.
He directed that broadcast stations use screeners to censor calls before they go live on programmes, adding that programmes can only have five call-in shows per day.
The commission, he said also mandated that henceforth, the cost of phone calls must be borne by the station and not individuals calling in.
Commenting on the discussion of judicial cases, Okoduwa said media houses cannot hold a discussion about ongoing court cases, adding that pending suits can only be discussed at the early stage and at the final stage after judgment has been given.
But some media houses have raised concerns over this new set of rules issued by the NBC, saying that the new rules compromise free speech.
They argued that it could deny Nigerians the opportunity to voice their opinions on important political and social issues.
Others have canvassed that the new rules would also impose new expenses on radio and television stations, as they will now have to bear the cost of phone calls and purchase screening machines.
“I believe that this will restrict the free speech of Nigerians. Putting the cost of calls solely on the shoulder of stations will likely mean most stations will only have one or two toll-free lines, which reduces the ways in which Nigerians can voice their opinions.
“The costs of toll-free lines and call screening machines may prove high for some stations, making them choose between giving Nigerians access to voicing their opinions and their expense sheet,” said a media practitioner, who pleaded for anonymity.
The new regulations, The Daily Times learnt, came less than a week after a hateful song inciting violence against the Igbos was circulated in northern Nigeria.