Chris Steven, Abuja
Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information has refuted insinuations that government may be trying to stifle freedom of expression in the country.
According to him, the government rather, is working at curbing hate speech which has been on the rise.
He stated this while featuring on Channels Television’s Breakfast Programme, Sunrise Daily on Tuesday.
He also pointed out that despite existing laws, fresh legislations may be necessary in order to plug any loopholes that may be exploited by purveyors of hate speech.
While referring to the Army’s statement about monitoring social media, Mohammed explained that military surveillance is a routine practice all over the world in order to contain potential security threats.
The military had earlier disclosed that activities of Nigerians on the social media are now being monitored for hate speech, anti-government and anti-security information.
John Enenche, the Director of Defence Information and Major-General had revealed that the move became necessary in the light of troubling activities and misinformation capable of jeopardizing the unity of the country.
His comments came less than 48 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari said in his national broadcast that some of the discussion on social media in his absence crossed the line and left him distressed.
For Major General Enenche, the social media has always been a challenge all over the world and for the military, it is no different.
“It is a double-edged sword and we are also having a bit of it,” he said when he appeared on Channels Television’s News At 10, hours after President Buhari met with service chiefs and ordered them to strengthen their operations.
“Imagine when the President came back and addressed the nation, not up to 30 minutes later, a fake speech of the Commander-In-Chief was being circulated in order to do what? To derail the people. If you are not very sharp and if you didn’t listen to the speech or you don’t have a copy of it like I had it almost immediately, you wouldn’t know. So, looking at it from that perspective, it is a challenge everywhere.”
Having observed the possibility that the social media can be misused the military has taken steps to address that. One of such steps is the establishment of strategic media centres.
“What are we doing? In the military, we are now taking on it more seriously than ever. We have our strategic media centres that monitor the social media to be able to sieve out and react to all the ones that will be anti-government, be anti-military, (and) be anti-security,” the military chief continued.
“We tackle them appropriately with appropriate responses. Ahead of that, we are also proactive. We have measures in place, scientific measures to be able to sieve this information and also to get the public and let them know that some of this information they are getting is not genuine are not true and their objective is an anti-corporate existence of this country.”