Senate yesterday said there was no going back on its social media censorship bill just as it condemned the activities of some of the media platforms, particularly SaharaReporters which it said had published series of materials to undermine the integrity of the Upper House.
Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, while reacting to the point of order on urgent matter of national importance raised by Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West) on the criticisms that have greeted the bill which scaled Second Reading at the plenary, maintained that the Red Chamber will not be blackmailed to abandoning its constitutional responsibilities.
Saraki said though the online media remains a major addition to the democratic discourse, he advised that it should not be abused by their operators.
The senate president particularly urged the operators always be fair and accurate in their reports, adding that people must be responsible for their actions.
He later referred the matter to the Senate Committees on Ethics, Privileges & Public Petitions; ICT & Cybercrime; and the Judiciary, Human Rights & Legal Matters for proper investigation and submit their report within four weeks.
In arguing his point of order, Melaye said that social media operators should be held accountable for their reports and publications.
According to him, if no measure was put in place to check the activities of SaharaReporters and others like it, the social media could taint the nation’s democracy.
“If there are no measures put in place, this particular SaharaReporters and others have the capacity to drag democracy into crisis because they have become very reckless.
“They make laborious statements that have no content of fact at all and because of the Nigeria’s perception it is very important that we check their activities.
“While I celebrate the social media as major actors, this Senate should not be blackmailed or cowed because of the social media. You will read time innumerable, SaharaReporters casting aspersion on the integrity of the Senate. The Senate is a sacred hallowed chamber.
“The bill moved yesterday on frivolous petitions have been misconstrued by this same people and this Senate should not keep quiet because this can have a negative effect on the Nation. This SaharaReporters have commercialized their consciences and moneytised their operations and are now tools being used against perceived political enemies.
“SaharaReporters operate from New York and this Senate must write the US government to draw their attention to the clandestine operations of SaharaReporters,” he stressed.
Melaye said that the social media operated by some credible individuals must be celebrated but stressed that those used for intimidation and blackmail must be checked.
In his remarks, the Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume reiterated that the activities of some social media operators were ‘getting out of hand’.
“It is not only SaharaReporters; you have the privilege where people just wake up because of the advancement in ICT and start writing whatever without being held responsible,” he said.
He said that the Freedom of Information Act, FoI and the freedom of speech must be looked into. He recalled when he was accused by an online magazine of importing 400 golf cars for Boko Haram insurgents stressing that that was a pointer to the need to regulate.
“We are a law making body and we have a responsibility to make laws that hold people responsible for actions that they take. People should not just publicize anything without being held responsible,” he said.
Senator Bodun Olujimi (PDP Ekiti South), however, stressed that the social media was an innovation that had benefitted Nigeria a great deal.
She said that the social media helped in election and in information dissemination but added that their excesses was becoming a challenge.

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