Yesterday, the Nigerian Senate withdrew the proposed “Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected there-with”, popularly known as the “Social Media Bill”. The bill sought to restrict free expression by making it illegal to start any type of petition without swearing an affidavit that the content is true in a court of law.
The withdrawal of the bill came on World Telecommunications and Information Society Day, and certainly gives reason to celebrate. Hearing the news, our Africa Regional Coordinator Nnenna Nwakanma said:
“It is indeed a great relief to hear of the death of the Social Media Bill which intended to curtail the number of “petitions or statements” reporting on the conduct of others without a “duly sworn affidavit in the court of law”. If passed, the bill would have clamped down on Nigerians’ ability to blow the whistle on wrongdoing and freely voice their opinions on the issues that matter to them. This is a step in the right direction and comes at the right time.
“However, it is important to note that withdrawing the bill, though welcome, is not enough. If the country is really serious about its recent anti-corruption engagement, and is committed to signing on to the Open Government Partnership as President Buhari promised to do last week in London, Nigeria must go further and be proactive in promoting citizen access to information, to affordable broadband Internet connectivity, to a free and open Web where citizens can participate in building Nigeria’s future without fear.
“To put Nigeria’s commitment to online rights beyond doubt, the country needs to consider the principles and action points of the African Declaration of Internet Rights. The proposed new Communications Service Tax, which risks derailing the connectivity targets in the country’s Broadband plan by making Internet access unaffordable for millions, should also be scrapped.”
We would like to congratulate our colleagues and partners at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria who worked tirelessly to achieve this reversal. You can learn more in their latest research on the state of Internet freedom in Nigeria, released yesterday, available here.
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