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Nigerian Activists March Against “Anti-free Speech” Social Media Bill #NoToSocialMedia



Nigerian protesters are out on the streets of the capital, Abuja, and many are also taking to social media to protest against a proposed bill which critics say would restrict free speech online.

The draft bill, which President Muhammadu Buhari distanced himself from on Monday, proposes jail terms and hefty fines for anyone who “propagates false information” on electronic media.

The bill,tagged: “A Bill for an Act to Prohibit frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected therewith”, sponsored by Senator Ibn Na’Allah, APC, Kebbi South, compels petitioners to accompany their petitions with sworn court affidavit, failure of which attracts a six- month imprisonment upon conviction.

But the bill provides for an option of N4 million for persons convicted of false newspaper,radio and television statements and N2 million for offenders of false phone text messages or messages on facebook,twitter,instagram,or whatsApp.

“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 bill specified.

On the social media,the bill read: “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.”

The hashtag #NoToSocialMediaBill has been trending on Twitter in Nigeria, where one user has posted photos of protesters marching to the Nigerian parliament:

There are an estimated 80 million internet users in Nigeria, and there has been criticism from some are highly critical of any legislation that would restrict their freedom of speech, reports BBC.

One cartoonist has mocked the ruling APC for considering the bill, given how effectively it used social media to galvanise support during elections earlier this year:

Photo Credit: Mr. Aye Dee ?@MrAyeDee

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