By Constance Imasuen
Abuja – Paradigm Initiative, an NGO, has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill already passed by the National Assembly.
Mr Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of the organisation made the appeal on Wednesday in Abuja at the ongoing 2018 Internet Freedom Forum organised by Paradigm Initiative with the support of Facebook and other sponsors.
The bill as passed contained seven clauses covering aspects that define freedoms, rights and certain punishment as well as issues of hate speeches and fake news.
“Over the last two years, we have worked on a bill called the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill; it has been passed by the National Assembly.
“Right now it just needs to be signed by the president. If that is done, it will at least provide a platform to engage with the issues of digital rights in Nigeria.
“It is important to make sure that the policy environment moves from one of regression to one where the internet for Africa is actually a platform for economic opportunities and more.’’
According to Sesan, fake news and hate speeches were major concerns of Paradigm Initiative and other stakeholders and the bill adequately addressed
He said the NGO was partnering with Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism and a few other partners to check online platforms where fake news was being shared.
He said over the next few months, particularly as Nigeria was going towards elections, Paradigm would check for fake news items and look for information to dispute and correct them.
“This was done in 2015, even though, it was in a different platform and we will do that again.
“This is to guard against the excuse of fake news and hate speech so that there will be no excuse for government to clamp down on media houses.
Also, Mrs Teki Falconer, Former Executive Director, Data Protection Commission, Ghana, said all stakeholders in ICT had a role to play in making the Digital Environment safe.
Falconer said governments and individuals also had roles to play in making the digital environment safe by being proactive and not reactive.
“We should not wait for issues to come up before we react because in this digital era, things change very quickly and if we are waiting for policy makers to come up with laws, we may never get there.
“So, what we can do as civil societies and individuals is to do our research and bring it to the attention of the policy makers.
“It is our job to also sit down to let them understand what they should do to help their citizens. (NAN)