(Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images)

#SayNoToSocialMediaBill: Nigerians Protest Proposed Law Allowing Government to Block the Internet

Nigerians are saying no to the 'Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill' that they say will give the government the power to silence them.

A bill that could limit democratic expression amongst social media users in Nigeria, has been proposed in the senate for the second time this year, Techcabal reports. Several Nigerians are now speaking out against it.

The bill, called the "Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019 (SB 132)," would essentially allow the government to shutdown the internet whenever it sees fit. It was proposed by Senator Muhammadu Sani Musa of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who claimed that the measure was necessary to prevent the spread of "hate speech" and extremist ideologies through online channels. "Individuals and groups influenced by ideologies and deep-seated prejudices in different countries are using internet falsehood to surreptitiously promote their causes, as we have seen in Nigeria with the insurgency of Boko haram," he said.

A clip of Senator Elisha Abbo another vocal supporter of the bill, who is currently under investigation for an alleged assault after being caught on video slapping a woman at a sex shop in July—shows him passionately defending the bill on the floor and condemning what he calls "fake news" from being spread to different countries. "It is a cancer waiting to consume all of us," said Abbo.

A similar bill was proposed back in 2015, but was widely criticized and never passed.

If the law were to pass, those who violate it would be penalized with a fine of up to N300,000 ($828) or three years imprisonment. While corporate organizations would be fined N10 million ($276,103).

Despite the claims of politicians, the proposed bill is being seen as a hinderance to free speech and a move in line with that of a totalitarian government, as it would give the government free will to block access to the internet if it finds a user expressing views outside of what it deems appropriate. For many, it seems like an attempt to silence any form of political dissent or dialogue that the government might find unfavorable. Questions have also arisen around its applicability and the arbitrary standards that might be employed to determine what constitutes fake news.

The widely followed advocacy page Enough Is Enough Nigeria, pointed out that the bill appears to be a replica of Singapore's "Protection from Online Falsehoods & Manipulation Act" that was passed June of this year.

Several other African nations have previously established laws that impede on their citizens use of social media—pointing to growing instances of government censorship across the continent. Uganda passed its controversial social media tax last year, while government-initiated internet shutdowns have occurred at various times in several countries including Cameroon, Tanzania, Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and DRC—particularly during election periods.

Censorship is a growing issue in Nigeria, where reports of advocates, human rights activists and journalists—including Sahara Reporters founder Omoyele Sowerebeing jailed continue to emerge. Amnesty International has declared several of them "Prisoners of Conscience."

Many Nigerians view social media as one of the only channels they have left to speak out openly against corrupt governance, social inequality and other widespread injustices. "We have sufficient cause to believe that this bill contains elements that may affect the right to free expression of internet users in Nigeria," said Nigerian digital rights advocacy group Paradigm Initiative in a statement in The Guardian Nigeria. "We intend to follow up on it as it goes through the legislative process and is officially gazetted."

Public figures, artists, activists and journalists are coming together online and denouncing the proposed law using the viral hashtag #SayNoToSocialMediaBill.

Image supplied.

Interview: How Stogie T’s ‘Freestyle Friday’ Became a TV Show

Freestyle Friday started as lockdown content but is now a fully-fledged TV show on Channel O. In this interview, Stogie T breaks down why the show is revolutionary and talks about venturing into media.

When South Africa was put under a hard lockdown in 2020, Stogie T started Freestyle Friday to "make SA rap again." Freestyle Friday, hosted on Instagram, saw a different cohort of rappers each rap over the same beat picked by the veteran rapper. From niche and emerging rappers to some of the most notable names in South African hip-hop—the likes of AKA, Focalistic, Ginger Trill and several others all participated.

In the last few weeks, however, Freestyle Friday has found its way to cable TV. The show airs every Friday on Channel O, one of the continent's longest-running music TV channels. Freestyle Friday as a TV programme isn't just about freestyles, it's about the art of rapping and the music business, particularly SA hip-hop. Guests range from lyricists to record executives and other personalities aligned with the scene—Ninel Musson and Ms Cosmo for instance.

But Freestyle Friday is only the first media product Stogie T is working on as he is in the process of starting a podcast network, a venture in which he is collaborating with Culture Capital. In the Q&A below, Stogie T breaks down the relationship with Culture Capital, how the show moved from the internet to TV, why it's a revolutionary idea, touches on his venture into media and his future plans.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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