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Buhari won''t stifle free speech – Lai Mohammed

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on Monday assured that the Federal Government would not stifle free speech by seeking to regulate…

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on Monday assured that the Federal Government would not stifle free speech by seeking to regulate the Social Media or abridging the rights of the citizens.

He gave the assurance in Lagos while meeting with a cross section of Online Media publishers. He however said
it was important for the publishers to self regulate in order to maintain their credibility.

Mohammed said: “The Federal Government does not intend to stifle free speech or abridge the rights of Nigerians to air their views freely. We are not about to regulate or deprive the Social Media of its strength. This explains why we are asking you to self-regulate; encouraging you to rein in the impostors among you and show restraint when dealing with issues of national unity, issues of Nigeria’s sovereignty, as well as issues concerning the lives and well-being of Nigerians.

“In essence, you must self-regulate in order not to self-destruct. Self-regulation allows you to weed out the charlatans among you in order to maintain your credibility and ensure your survival. Lose credibility and lose it all. That is the stark reality. If you must survive and grow, you must not compromise your credibility.” 

The Minister described as alarming the spiraling level of hatred among Nigerians,especially the educated ones, on the Social Media in recent times, saying that the kind of debate that was being carried out on the Social Media was exploiting the fault lines in our national unity.

“Hate debate is adding fuel to some low-intensity fires and, if left unchecked, could consume all of us. Remember, you need a peaceful country before you can even dream of greatness. You need a united, strong and virile country to
provide the necessary environment for your dreams to come true.

“A marriage between Nigerians of different tribes that should be hailed for solidifying our unity as a people has become one of the reasons to vent incredible hatred and openly predict catastrophe for our nation on the Social Media. The New Media is a powerful platform that has democratised access to information and strengthened citizen journalism. But it is also a double-edged sword that must be wielded with caution,” he said.

The Minister thanked the Online Media publishers for their contribution to the success of the last general elections in the country that saw the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the ruling party, and urged them to partner with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to drive the change agenda, which, he said, was aimed at achieving a paradigm shift in the way Nigerians do things.

“This is not a partisan call, since all Nigerians, irrespective of their party affiliation, will benefit from a better Nigeria,” he
said, while assuring that his doors were open and that he was willing to work with the Online Media publishers in the interest of the country.

“Feel free to call us to clarify issues, obtain facts and figures on issues of national interest and also, give us feedback from the citizens. You are great influences, and you set the agenda. There is enormous power in your fingertips, and no one can ignore you,” he said.

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