Social Media Bill: Senate fixes date for public hearing

Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan

The Senate has fixed March 9 for the public hearing of the Social Media bill.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at Senate Conference Room 022, Senate New building, National Assembly, Abuja.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters, Opeyemi Bamidele, made the announcement in a published notice.

Interested parties are expected to attend the public hearing and give their opinions as well as suggestions on the bill.

Invited guests include the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, all media organisations, Guild of Editors, among others.

The general public is also invited to the hearing.

Having passed first and second reading, the public hearing is one of the final stages of the bill, after which the legislation will be considered and possibly passed into law – if the lawmakers vote unanimously for the bill.

The bill, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019,’ sponsored by Mohammed Musa, was introduced in the Senate in November.

Many Nigerians have kicked against the bill and the lawmakers have come under criticism for considering the bill. Many have said the bill is targeted at silencing the media and the masses.

The legislation comes a few years after a similar anti-social media bill introduced in the eight Senate, sparked outrage across the country.

The sponsor of the bill, Mohammed Sani Musa (APC, Niger) has said the bill does not intend to gag the media but to check the spread of false information on the internet.

It is rather an opportunity to address the growing threats which if left unchecked, can cause serious damage in our polity and disrupt peaceful existence, he said.

The lawmaker also said that while the internet has democratised information, the fact remains that it has also been a weapon in the process – which is why governments across the world are trying to mitigate the risks associated with information transmission via internet by monitoring abuse and deliberate misconduct.

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