Lai Mohammed,the Minister of Information and Culture said on Thursday in Abuja that, “any speech, broadcast or publication that denigrates a person, a group of people on the basis of their sex, religion, political belief or origin is hate speech”.
He declared that, “They know what they are doing and they must be made to pay for it,” the minister said while justifying the increase of hate speech fine from N500,000 to N5 million in the amended National Broadcasting Code stressing that the fine was raised for national security and to serve as deterrent to those bent on destabilizing the country through the use of fake news and hate speech.
“In practice what we found was that when the fine for hate speech was just half a million, people were reckless because they could easily pay the half a million fine.
“As a matter of fact, our findings shows that when people take advert to broadcast houses and the broadcast houses refused the advert on ground that if they air them they will be fined half a million Naira, the purveyor of hate speech will say, don’t worry, we will pay you N1 million extra.” And sarcastically commented thus, “with the N5 million we want to see whether they will add another N10 million to their advert rate.”
According to him, “Any broadcast or publication that tends to erode social cohesion that is an attack on our inclusion and common value is hate speech. Those who go to television and denigrate one person or the other with a view to cause social disharmony have breached the hate speech code.”
He explained that hate speech had a long history and government had been proactive in addressing the menace because of its potential threat to national security and cohesion recalling that in 2017, the ministry devoted an entire National Council of Information meeting to discuss the effect of fake news and hate speech.
“No country is going to sit down and fold its arms and be destroyed by fake news or hate speech especially in Nigeria where we are divided along ethnicity, religion and culture. For us, it is very practical and for those who said it is primitive, we disagree with them because we want to safe Nigeria from purveyors of hate speech,’ he said..
Mohammed disclosed that he had equally launched a national campaign against hate speech and fake news and embarked on advocacy visits to media houses across the country on its dangers. Speaking on the effects of hate speech, Mohammed said it led to genocide in Rwanda where over 800,000 lives were lost as well as the killings in Bosnia and Cambodia.
He asserted that the social media has aggravated the menace of hate speech and fake news and the government will not relent in its resolve to control the medium without stifling freedom of speech.