FUTURE AWARDS: Nigerian Media Oppose Social Media Bill on a Night of Glamour
By Ufuoma Egbamuno
It was meant to be a night for honouring the very best of youths that Nigeria has got to offer. And indeed it was so. From Agriculture to Arts, Sports to Advocacy, Education to the Media; The Future Awards Africa (TFAA) 2019 was everything and more.
Crucially, it also served as an opportunity for the Nigerian Media to vehemently oppose the proposed Social Media Bill currently being discussed in the Nigerian Senate.
Veteran journalists and broadcasters, Kadaria Ahmed and Funmi Iyanda were meant to just come on stage and perform a duty like others before them: present a set of nominees and call at a winner for the TFAA 2019 Journalism category.
But, both went a step further using the stage to send a powerful message to the Nigerian Senate and indeed the government of the day.
As representatives of the Nigerian Media - Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria; Nigerian Guild of Editors; Nigerian Union of Journalists; Guild of Corporate Online Publishers; and Online Publishers Association; - Kadaria and Funmi expressed the readiness to fight the proposed Social Media Bill with “every legitimate tool.”
Last week, the Senator who initiated the bill was adamant on the floor of the Senate that it was “not an attempt to stifle free speech.” Senator Musa Mohammed Sani insisted that the bill is important as it seeks to regulate how Nigerians use the social media, protect users from internet falsehood and manipulations.
Social Media Bill Won't Stifle Free Speech - Senator https://t.co/uGPfGUylUr— Nigeria Info FM 99.3 (@NigeriainfoFM) November 20, 2019
But the Nigerian media disagrees.
According to one of its representatives, Kadaria, the proposed bill “is against the Nigerian Constitution and presents a clear and present danger to journalists and also to the rights of citizens to the right of expression.
“One of the critical pillars of a functioning democracy is a free press,” the BBC trained journalist insists with a smile on her face even as she reiterates, that the media in particular and Nigerians in general, will suffer in the hands of government’s security personnel if the bill is passed.
“We know that the proposed social media bill will become another tool in the hands of security agencies for the muzzling of criticisms not just by the citizens but also by journalists,” she said.
According to the World Press Freedom Index, Nigeria is ranked a low 120 out of 180 ranked countries in the world. In addition, the Global Impunity Index recognises Nigeria as “a country where criminals, government and politicians use violence to silence critical views, particularly in the media.”
Not great signs for a nation that prides itself as the Giant of Africa.
And Ahmed insists the job of a journalist “underpins democracy which is one of the vital components” and is one “that is protected by the constitution.”
“Section 22 lays it out clearly for a reason which is that without a free press, there will be no democracy,” the former Editor of the defunct Next newspaper stated.
“We are therefore asking the National Assembly not to pass a bill which is contrary to our constitution – the instrument that confers legitimacy on them.”
The Nigerian Media insists that there are existing laws which deals with the issues the proposed bill is expected to tackle.
“We have existing laws like the Cyber Crimes Act of 2015 and also laws on Libel and Defamation that are more than adequate to deal with these crimes when they arise,” Ahmed noted.
For veteran broadcaster Iyanda, the fight to stop the proposed bill must be a collective one for all and not left to the media alone.
“Democracy doesn’t protect itself. People, you and I are the ones who protect democracy,” the former NTA host said.
“Every citizen’s voice matters. We cannot leave this fight to this important institutions alone; we can’t do it alone.
“I have been writing and telling stories and speaking to the most powerful people in the country for over 2 decades, and I know that the worse things happen when citizens don’t fight for what belongs to them,” she told the listening audience.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Media insists it will soon come up with a plan to limit issues like Hate Speech and Fake News which the proposed Social Media Bill hopes to eradicate.
“The Industry is also happy to announce that we are working on self-regulation in line global best practice and before long will be making an announcement in this regard,” Ahmed announced.
The delectable duo then went on to announce freelance journalist and filmmaker, Shola Lawal, as the winner of TFAA prize for Journalism.
Other big winners on the night included Afrobeat sensation Burnaboy also known as Damini Ogulu who picked up the coveted Young Person of the Year as well as the Music of the Year prize.
Simi Adejumo was named the OAP of the Year, a category that also had Nigeria Info’s Hard Facts presenter, Sandra Ezekwesili as one of the nominees; while the award for Sports was won by UFC Middleweight Champion, Isreal Adesanya.
Future Award Prize for Advocacy - Hamzat Lawal.
Future Award Prize for Technology - Zang Luka Bot.
Future Award Prize for Literature - Otosirieze Obi-Young.
Future Award Prize for Media - Sam Ajiboye.
Future Award Prize for Agriculture - Uka Eje
Future Award Prize for Public Service goes to Adetola Onayemi.
Future Award Prize for Education which goes to Olaseni Cole.
Future Award Prize for Arts - Ken Nwadiogbu.
Future Award Prize for Fashion - Tubobereni Sandra.
Future Awards Prize for Acting - Timini Egbuson.
Future Award Prize for Public Service - Adetola Onayemi.
Future Award Prize for Professional Service - Bukky Akomolafe.
Prize for Photography - Tolani Alli.
Prize for Film Making - Dare Olaitan.
Future Awards Prize for Business - Emmanuel Ademola Ayilara.
Future Awards Prize for Community Action - Isaac Success.
Pictures via @TFAAfrica