By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
A human rights lawyer, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has made recommendations on how to curb excesses in the use of social media.
His recommendations included the formation of Online Bloggers/Media Practioners Association.
“The Nigerian media is called upon to urgently register an association, which would serve as a training ground for members, with code of conducts to guide it’s members, with a view to ensuring that the use of the social media is healthy and lawful,” Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said.
He also recommended legal vetting/compliance in media practice, verification of facts as well as activism in journalism.
According to him, there is the urgent need for media practitioners cum online practitioners to endeavor to engage in the legal vetting of their posts, so as not to play into the hands of the ‘enemy’, who are roaring looking for whom to deploy.
Explaining the essence of the verification of facts, he urged media practitioners to pioneer and deepen already existing efforts that help to verify facts before posting same or sharing or retweeting same to the public.
Adegboruwa commended the input of Nigerian media in activism journalism, and encouraged them to improve on it.
“There is room for improvement in the area of active engagement of the ruling class through participation in the process of law- making i.e. through public hearings and holding the legislature accountable, when laws are being enacted to tame the freedom of the Press,” the human rights lawyer elaborated.
Adegboruwa expressed this view at the 2019 annual lecture of the National Association of Judicial Correspondents (NAJUC), Lagos Branch on Tuesday where, as a guest speaker, he delivered a lecture on the theme, “Press Freedom In The New Social Media Age: Implications And The Law.”
He said that the advent of social media has positively impacted the polity, economy, and social strata of Nigerian society, and is holding public officers accountable.
“This is the greatest gain of the freedom associated with the social media,” the SAN stressed, adding: “It is safe to assert, therefore, that the new social media has acted as restraint on despotic and arbitrary power.”
Adegboruwa was delighted that Nigerians fought against the “Frivolous Petition Prohibition Bill” by the Nigerian Senate in 2018, which sought to regulate the digital cum media rights of the citizens.
He pointed out that there are sufficient laws already regulating the social media space in the country, such as Cyber-crime Prohibition Act, Criminal Code Act, Penal Code Act, and Nigerian Press Council Act.
While conceding that there are challenges of fake news, hate speech, defamation and other vices associated with the use of social media, Adegboruwa argued that those challenges do not justify further regulation of the already regulated use of the social media through the enactment of regulations, which some times violate constitutional provisions.
He declared: “There exist abundant laws already put in place and which are sufficient to curb any fear that government officials and other well-meaning Nigerians may have.”
He said that Nigeria has abundant legislations to protect the right of the citizens to Press freedom, adding: “those laws are also sufficient to restrain the careless use of the social media any time.”
The senior advocate stated that apart from some classes of Nigerians who have a loathe to criticism, and therefore, fear the power of the social media, there are others who express genuine concern that the Press freedom that Nigerians enjoy must be deployed in a positive manner that is capable of galvanizing the citizens for progressive ventures in the interest of all.