Posted by Mayowa Okekale, Abuja | 28 April 2018 | 1,933 times
The Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, ’Gbenga Sesan, has said that the group will work with other agencies to help combat the culture of fake news in the country by searching and sharing the correct information, as 2019 election campaign draws near.
He equally stated that Nigerian government does not have the moral standing to accuse any one of peddling fake news as the government is also guilty, adding that digital rights are human rights which are very fundamental and must be respected by the government.
Sesan spoke at the 2018 Internet Freedom Forum (#IFF) in Abuja, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill that has been passed by the Senate, with a view to providing a platform to engage on the issues surrounding digital rights in Nigeria.
Gathered at the three-day event were journalists from across 30 different countries, editors and social media influencers. The event held from April 24 t 26 at the Nigeria Airforce Conference Centre in Abuja.
The panel included other respected digital experts and media gurus, including the Executive Director of OrderPaper Nigeria, Oke Epia, Premium Times founder, Dapo Olorunyomi, and Facebook Public Policy Manager for Africa, Akua Gyekye.
Sesan, who spoke with journalists during one of the sessions of the event, opined that Nigeria is somewhere in the middle with regards to digital rights. He notedg that things could be great one minute and wrong in the next with the arrests of bloggers and several media harassments.
He emphasised on the importance of ensuring that the policy environment moves from one of regression to one where the internet for Africa is actually a platform for economic activities and more.
“Why are we focusing on shutting down the internet and arresting political opponents when we can actually promote, using the internet for economic opportunities?” Sesan asked.
“Privacy is important, freedom of expression is important, I have the right to say the things I want to say, even if you don’t like to hear them, as long as I don’t break any laws,” he remarked.
While attesting to the fact that security which is the government’s issue is a valid one, he said, “You don’t solve a problem by creating another problem. You don’t solve the problem of security by killing people who are protesting because in doing that, you are actually causing more harm than good.
“For Ministries, Departments and Associations, understand the issue, understand that there must be a balance between privacy and security, get more people on the table to have this conversation, let various stakeholders give their input. You don’t just slam laws down on people’s throats,” Sesan advised.
In the same vein, the Founder, Africa Digital Rights Hub, Teki Akuetteh, who also spoke with newsmen, reiterated that digital rights issues are very important and even more important for Africa, expressing dismay that Africa is not engaging adequately in those areas.
“If we do not take care, this information era, we are going to be left behind. These are very critical tools that can also help Africa, help our economies leapfrog and advance in ways that we haven’t thought of,” she stressed.
Akuetteh emphasised that shutting down the internet, trying to censor or regulate would mean to the entire would that such a country is beginning to limit access of information that may be relevant to its own people, the outside community, to their businesses and economy.
She however stressed the need to look at a more proactive way of dealing with some of these legitimate concerns on digital rights issues.
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