In December 2015, under former President Goodluck Jonathan, a social media bill was proposed that many Nigerian activists and journalists have said that if passed could infringe on freedom of speech.
As Al Jazeera reports the draft bill to “Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith,” proposed by Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah of the All People’s Congress party (APC), begins by making it illegal to start any type of petition without swearing on an affidavit that the content is true in a court of law.
Its proposals include up to two years in prison, or a fine of $10,000, or both, for anyone posting an “abusive statement” via text message, Twitter, WhatsApp, or any other form of social media. It also creates offenses with varying penalties for false publications by print, radio and TV outlets.
With the election of President Buhari this past April the country saw the first peaceful and democratic transition of power since its inception. The bill more popularly known as the “Anti-Social Media Bill” harks on the authoritarian practices of past regimes to quell any opposition to the ruling élite, in other words, the bill could be considered an obstruction to whistle blowing and the ability to take corrupt politicians to task.
In light of these current events, Nigeria ranks 111 out of 180 countries on the 2015 edition of the World Press Freedom Index. Clear and adequate information on the Islāmic terrorist group Boko Haram and what the Nigerian Armed Forces are doing to crush the insurgency has become increasingly difficult to obtain, the World Press Freedom Index further cites journalists have been repeatedly denied access to trials of Boko Haram members and that leaders at the state level make arbitrary decisions on arrests of local journalists.
Last week the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, said in a speech before an audience at Social Media Week Lagos, that the bill would not see the light of day in the senate. Time will tell.