A critical assessment of the hate speech bill and its effect on freedom of speech in nigeria ( a case study of public perception)
1.1 Background of study
Man has intuitively expressed a desire to express himself in things concerning his general wellbeing and the development of the society in which he finds himself since the beginning of time. Although, as societies grow, this innermost yearning has more often been faced with oppressive tendencies in the shape of harsh laws, exile, physical torture, and other repressive measures enacted by the ruling class, man has remained unafraid in his pursuit of free expression of views (Layefa and Johnson, 2016). Despite the unparalleled value and unique indispensability of free speech and press freedom to the proper and progressive functioning of society, many repressive and fascist governments, as well as numerous nefarious groups and institutions, and diabolical individuals, continue to harass, malign, victimize, terrorize, imprison, and threaten these noble institutions, according to Oloyede (2008). Indeed, despite the ominous dangling of the sword of repression, torture, and death, among other things, man remains undeterred in his pursuit of free speech and a free press, much to the anger of opponents of free speech. Democracy is widely regarded as the world’s most popular form of government. It is widely regarded as a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. Democracy as an ideology, according to Obasanjo and Mabgunje (1992), cited in Ogah and Ogeyni (2014), is a philosophy of governance that places a high value on citizens’ basic freedoms or fundamental human rights, the rule of law, the right to property, the free flow of information, and the right to choose between alternative political positions. Simply expressed, democracy is a political system in which the people have sovereignty rather than a tiny clique or an oligarchy, and where the rule of law, majority rule, and constitutionalism are fundamental guiding principles of governance. In this context, Ramaswamy (2007) proposed that democracy refers to the rule of the people as opposed to the rule of a single person or group. He went on to add that, unlike a monarchy, dictatorship, or oligarchy, where there is a divide between the rulers and the ruled, it is the people who are both rulers and rulers. In 1999, Nigeria became a member of the League of Democratic Nations. Freedom is one of the most important aspects of a true democracy. The capability to express oneself freely without fear of bodily or psychological harm exemplifies one’s ability to be free (by the government or otherwise). The boundaries of freedom of expression have become more pliable. Globalization, which has physically abolished all borders and is primarily engineered by the internet, can be blamed for this. The internet has revolutionized freedom of speech and expression, which was formerly restricted to television, radio, and print media. Today, we have social media, which allows people or organizations to sit in the comfort of their own homes or offices and express themselves freely to millions of other users who are not constrained by the physically defined borders and limits of countries or regions (Joel, 2013). However, in a constitutional democracy, freedom of expression and the press means the freedom to speak whatever one wants, subject to the repercussions of the law, as the case may be, which laws must be fair and reasonably justiciable. Thus, liberty, or freedom of expression and the press, refers to two distinct concepts. These include imposing no prior restrictions on publication and press freedom; this entails imposing no prior restrictions on what to publish and what not to post. There should be no pre-publication censorship. Every individual has the right to express his or her feelings, facts, information, or publish them to the public. To deny this liberty is to suffocate the press and freedom of expression (Joel, 2013).
Nigerians were recently informed that the Senate was considering a highly contentious law. Senator AliyuSabiAbdullahi, chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, is a proponent of the proposed law, dubbed the “Hate Speech Bill.” According to its Senate sponsor, the Hate Speech Bill aims to “eradicate” hate speech and prevent harassment based on ethnicity, religion, or race, among other things. It imposes severe punishments for offenses such as ethnic hate. It stipulates that anybody who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes, or directs the performance of any material, written or visual, that is threatening, abusive, or insulting, or involves the use of threatening, abusive, or insulting words, commits an offence (Punch, 2018). If that isn’t enough to scare you, the penalties for these offenses include a five-year prison sentence or a fine of not less than N10 million, or both. The death sentence, which is imposed when any sort of hate speech results in the death of another person, is the icing on the cake (Punch, 2018). Hate speeches are utterances, typed documents, advertorials, musicals, or any other kind of literature meant to disparage an individual, a group – religious, social, political, or business – gender, or race. In certain nations, hate speech is punishable by laws such as sedition, encouragement to violence, and verbal abuse (Fasakin, Oyero, Oyesomi, and Okorie, 2017). Hate speech, according to Ezeibe (2015), is “any word, gesture, conduct, text, or display that may provoke individuals to violent or discriminatory action.” In essence, such comments degrade the dignity of others. Hate speech is a broad term that can include insults directed at those in positions of authority or minority groups, as well as disparaging statements directed at individuals who are particularly visible in society. Hate speech can be manipulated at important periods, such as during election campaigns, when accusations of encouraging hate speech are traded among political opponents or exploited by those in power to suppress dissent and criticism (Ezeibe, 2015). The propagation of hate speech and filthy language has been a current trend in media malpractice in the country. Indeed, the press has fallen into the trap of publishing hate speech by directly quoting from interviews, press statements, advertorials, and even supposed online sources. In Nigeria, popular media channels such as AIT, Channels, Thisday, Vanguard, and The Nation, among others, were flooded with campaigns by numerous political parties demonstrating blatant abuses of the right to free speech, including hate speech and other sorts of bad language (Olowojolu 2016). While traditional media continues to combat hate speech, the rise of new media has extended the battleground in the hate speech drama. Because of its decentralized, anonymous, and interactive structure, the new media provides a perfect platform for adapting and spreading varied remarks and bad language. The frequency of harsh speech and bad language on social media in Nigeria, especially on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, bordering on political and national concerns, as well as social contact, is alarming. This is because it contributes to societal discontent among tribes, political classes, and religions, as well as among friends (Alakali, Faga, and Mbursa, 2017). While some argue that classifying hate speech as a criminal act infringes on citizens’ right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution, others argue that hate speech is not free speech and that criminalizing it would not infringe on citizens’ right to freedom of expression in any way. Instead, criminalizing hate speech encourages citizens to take responsibility for their freely expressed opinions by holding them accountable (Alakali, Faga, and Mbursa, 2017).
1.2 Statement of problem
The Nigerian Constitution guarantees the freedom of the general public, anyone and everyone, including the press and civil society groups, to receive and impart ideas and information by speech, printed word, and other media in sections 22 and 39. Every person should have the right to freedom of speech, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without hindrance, says Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution. However, given the recent passage of the Hate Speech Bill, the discussion over what constitutes hate speech, particularly on social media, has become a national conversation. Only a few voices have raised the alarm, and critical parts of society — the mass media, civil society, pressure groups, universities, writers, and creative/performing artists — that may suffer the brunt of the unpleasant law have been curiously and dangerously inattentive.
1.3 Objective of study
The following are primary objectives of this study:
- To determine the public perception on hate speech bill
- To assess if hate speech bill will have a negative effect on freedom of speech in Nigeria
- To investigate the prevalence of Hate speech in Nigeria
1.4 Research question
This research question guides this study:
- What is the public perception on the hate speech bill?
- Does hate speech bill have a negative effect on freedom of speech in Nigeria?
- What is the prevalence of Hate speech in Nigeria?
1.5 Significance of study
This research is essential because it ensures that, in the interests of Nigerians, the National Assembly should postpone the concept of passing the Hate Speech Bill and that the government should look for other legitimate ways to penalize people who use foul language against others. Also, some of the elements of the Hate Speech Bill should be addressed by revising defamation and sedition legislation.
This study will contribute to the current literature in this field and will also serve as a resource for academics, researchers, and students who may want to do future research on this or a comparable topic.
1.6 Scope of study
This study focuses on assessing the public perception of the hate speech bill and its effect on freedom of expression in Nigeria. This study will also assess if hate speech bill will have a negative effect on freedom of speech in Nigeria. This study will further look into the prevalence of Hate speech in Nigeria. Social media users in Ikoyi, Lagos State shall serve as enrolled participants for this study.
1.7 Limitation of study
Finance,inadequate materials and time constraint were the challenges the researchers encountered during the course of the study.
1.8 Definition of terms
Hate Speech: Hate speech involves epithets and slurs, statements that promote malicious stereotypes, and speech intended to incite hatred or violence against a group. Hate speech can also include nonverbal depictions and symbols.
Freedom of Speech: Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction.[email protected][email protected]