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EndSARS: FG will ensure responsible use of social media – Minister

ICC aggravating Nigeria’s security challenges- FG

Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, on Friday reiterated the Federal Government’s firm resolve to ensure responsible use of the social media through regulation.

He explained that the recent EndSARS protest was marred by fake news and disinformation which sparked violence. The minister said the social media was used to guide arsonists and looters to certain properties, both public and private, during the EndSARS violence.

“This brings me to the issue of social media regulation. You must have heard about the hoopla this issue has generated in the media. Well, I want to confirm that we will definitely act to ensure the responsible use of social media. You may call that regulation,” he said.

The minister, who said this during a meeting with the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) in Abuja, however, assured that regulating the social media space is not the same as stifling press freedom or free speech.

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He said fake news and disinformation are not the same as free speech, assuring that the government has no plan to stifle free speech, neither does the government have any intention of shutting down the internet.

“Social media has come to stay, and those who use it responsibly have nothing to fear. But we cannot give the same assurance for those who weaponise social media. By the way, the issue of regulating social media content is generating debate around the world, so Nigeria is not an exception,” he said.

Mohammed further tackled CNN for allegedly relying heavily on videos it took from social media for a “supposed exclusive investigation” on the incident at the Lekki Toll Gate on Oct. 20th.

“It is baffling that an organisation like CNN will rely on unauthenticated videos to carry out an investigation. More worrisome is that an international broadcaster like CNN will switch casualty figures so casually without a credible source,” Mohammed said.

The minister informed that the government has received an acknowledgement of the letter it sent to CNN and is awaiting the outcome of their probe.

“Since we sent our letter, CNN has been grasping at straws in desperation to justify its inaccurate and unbalanced investigation. But in the process, it is sinking more and more into professional infamy.

“Yesterday, Nov. 26th that is, in the clearest indication yet of the
its confusion over the Lekki Toll Gate incident, CNN tried to clarify its tweet of Oct. 23rd by saying it never attributed the death toll of 38 to Amnesty International and that the tweet also did not make it clear that the death toll was for protests across the country.

“Commentators on the tweet tried to redirect CNN to the issue: which is its tweet of Oct. 23rd in which it said ‘At least 38 people were killed in Nigeria on Tuesday (Oct. 20th) when the military opened fire on peaceful protesters’.

“This is very unambiguous and CNN is exhibiting panic by seeking to clarify its tweet some 35 days later! Instead of engaging in such panic, CNN should come clean by admitting that it goofed badly on the Lekki Toll Gate incident,” the minister said.

He restated that the government will not sit by and allow any news organisation, local or foreign, to set Nigeria on fire with irresponsible and unprofessional reporting.

The minister further regretted that six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed all over the country during the crisis, while 196 policemen were injured, 164 police vehicles destroyed and 134 police stations burnt down, but human rights organisations and the media did not give it the attention it deserved.

“Please note that the violence also left 57 civilians dead, 269
private/corporate facilities burnt/looted/vandalised, 243 government facilities burnt/vandalised and 81 government warehouses looted,” he said.

The minister further tackled local broadcast stations for failing to take the lead in reporting the protest but instead allowed foreign stations to take the lead and dictate the narrative.

Meanwhile, the vice-chairman of BON, Geoffrey Ohuabunwa, said the protests highlighted the need for more interaction between government and the broadcast industry.