The Nigerian Guild of Editors has demanded, unconditionally, that the Senate suspends all proceedings with respect to a proposed Bill: “Frivolous Petitions (Prohibitions, etc) Bill, 2015.”
The Guild made its position on the bill, which has been tagged the Social Media Bill, known in a statement by its President, Garba Deen Muhammad.
The Guild said the broad objective of this curiously accelerated Bill is to outlaw the freedom of expression of all Nigerian citizens and freedom of speech of all media organizations operating in print, electronic and online platforms in Nigeria and beyond.
It said appallingly, the Bill has also included as its target very personal and private means of communication such as SMS or text messages and WhatsApp, among others.
The statement added: “The freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed in section 22 and 39(1) of the 1999 Nigerian constitution respectively. Therefore, to enact any kind of law under any guise that will contradict these fundamental provisions is to deliberately seek to undermine the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We are, therefore, concerned that a group of persons elected by Nigerians to ensure that their rights, privileges and interests are protected, should gleefully misuse the mandate given to them to the detriment of the same people that elected them.
“As other concerned individuals and groups have pointed out, the Senate should note that there are already existing laws in our Constitution that can accommodate all the concerns, real or imagined, that the proposed Bill is expected to address. These laws include the Cyber Crime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act 2015, the Libel law etc.
“In view of this and the glaring danger posed by the proposed Bill, the NGE is strongly advising the Senate to drop all proceedings on the proposed Bill and turn its attention instead to critical areas in need of urgent intervention.
“While believing that members of the Senate have a right both individually and collectively to express their concerns about the abuse of the cyberspace by unscrupulous people and organizations, we advise them to consolidate or strengthen the existing laws and enforce implementation.
”We call on all Nigerians that are justifiably peeved by the very consideration of enacting such obnoxious law to remain calm and express their opposition through lawful means.
“However, we frown at on-line fraudsters who take advantage of the vulnerable cyber space to carry out cyber bullying, stealing, stalking and all manner of cybercrimes.”