With the new fine on ‘hate speech,’ how will the media report the #RevolutionNow protests?

Revolution Now

The Nigerian government and Nigerians have had a discontented marriage in recent times. Apart from the age-long song from Nigerians against corruption that has thrived amongst politicians, unemployment, and the unrest in the North, the government and Nigerians seem to exist at different ends of a spectrum.

Earlier, it was reported that Nigerians across different parts of the country will gather today Wednesday, and take to the streets to demand better governance from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari with the theme, #RevolutionNow, which is now an advocacy hashtag. This will be coming up less than a year after Nigerians walked the same paths in protest against bad governance. What was supposed to be a peaceful protest had the rights of Nigerians involved grossly violated by a regime whose draconian and unfriendly policies continue to plunge millions of individuals and households deeper into poverty.

The #RevolutionNow protest is pushing for good governance. Nigerians are simply asking the government to do better, provide jobs, improve and create infrastructures for Nigerians and be accountable for their actions. The protest, however, also garnered attention on social media even though people are mostly asked to come out en mass for a physical protest.

It is also no news that the Nigerian government has consistently pushed forward policies designed almost exclusively to increase the hardships Nigerians already face. Last year, a bill was debated to regulate social media, and its contents – The Social Media Bill attracted a “Stop the Social Media Bill! You can no longer take our rights from us” online petition campaign to force the Nigerian parliament to drop the process. The bill received over 90 thousand signatures within 24 hours. However, the government didn’t stop in its mission to ‘reduce’ free speech for Nigerians. Yesterday, the Minister of Information Lai Mohammed announced the federal government has raised the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million. While it is targeted at media organizations that have to report news and stories, their reports can be branded as hate speech.

With the protest that Nigerians are preparing for today, the media would be expected to play a key role in sharing and amplifying the voices of the many Nigerians who are calling for a change. This, in itself, is an issue that media outlets would have to navigate with precision and care. But it might also come down to the media watering down the protests by using tone-placating language, so as not to find themselves on the hate speech landmine.



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