OrderPaperToday– Civil society groups and individuals have converged at the gate of the National Assembly to protest the introduction of the Hate Speech and Social Media bills in the 9th Senate.
Both bills are perceived to be threats to freedom of speech and expression and a means to gag the use of social media.
Also at the gate is another set of people gathered to protest against detention of journalists.
Currently, Yele Sowore, Olawale Bakare and Agba Jalingo are being held in security agencies’ custody due to reports and involvement in movements opposing the current political administration in state and federal levels.
Some remain in custody despite court rulings in their favour.
As both protests were on, OrderPaperNG witnessed how a police man identified as Aidogu Enyinnaya grabbed the camera of a journalist, Tosin Busayo with Roots TV and hit him with a baton while he (Busayo) struggled to prevent his recording device from getting damaged.
Immediately, other journalists at the scene waded into the matter and saved him from further harassment.
Meanwhile, a co-convener, Henry Shield, while addressing journalists, noted that the aim of the protest is to express “utmost displeasure and outright rejection” of the proposed Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019, (also known among Nigerians as the ‘Social Media Bill’) and the Independent National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Act.
Shield noted that there are already existing laws in Nigeria which are appropriate for dealing with the issues raised to in the bills.
He explained, “We wish you draw your attention to the provision of Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act 2015 which already captures in its entirety the arms and objectives of the two obnoxious bills.
It states, “Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that (a) is grossly offensive. pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent; or
“(b) he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger. obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill-will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent: commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than 7 million naira or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.
“(2) Any person who knowingly or intentionally transmits or causes the transmission of any communication through a computer system or network (a) to bully, threaten or harass another person. where such communication places another person in fear of death, violence or bodily harm or to another person; Cyberstalking.
“25.(b) containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to harm the person of another, any demand or request for a ransom for the release of any kidnapped person, to extort from any person, firm, association or corporation, any money or other thing of value; or,
He continued: “(c) containing any threat to harm the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of valve: commits an offence under this Act e liable on conviction
“(i) in the case of paragraphs (a) and (b) subsection, to imprisonment for a term of 10 years and/or a minimum fine of N25 million; and (ii) in the case of paragraph (c) and (d) of this subsection, to imprisonment for a term of 5 years and/or a minimum fine of N15 million.
“(3) A court sentencing or otherwise dealing with a person convicted of an offence under subsections (1) and (2) may also make an order, which may, for the purpose of protecting the victim or victims of the offence, or any other person mentioned in the order, from further conduct which (a) amounts to harassment; or (b) will cause fear of violence, death or bodily harm, prohibit the defendant doing anything described/specified in the order.
“(4) A defendant who does anything which he is prohibited from doing by an order under this section, commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N10,000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment,
“(5) The order made under subsection (3) of this section may have effect for a specified period or until further order and the defendant or any other person mentioned in the order may apply to the court which made the order for it to be varied or discharged by a further order.
“(6) notwithstanding the powers of the Court under subsections (3) and (5), the court may make an interim order for the protection of victim(s) from further exposure to the alleged offences.”
Shield insisted that the “monstrous” Social Media Bill and its “evil Hate Speech counterpart” have no place in any democratic society, and called for its immediate wirthdrawal.
“In conclusion, we urge our lawmakers to borrow from abroad or plagiarise things and laws that will make them to be responsive to the yearnings of Nigerians, accommodate public criticisms and tower above pedestrian actions. You must truly show that you’re distinguished lawmakers”, he added.