About N336 million has been set aside in the 2021 appropriation budget, to enable the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to campaign against hate speech and fake news in the country.
This is contained in the 2021 budget proposal presented to the National Assembly by the President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday.
It reads in part, “ERGP9124023 Special enlightenment campaign on government policies and programmes; testimonial series to gauge the impact of government policies on the citizenry, advocacy against fake news, hate speech, farmers-herder clashes, banditry, rape etc. ongoing- N336,015,959.”
The Federal Government has in recent times put in place several strict measures to tackle hate speech and fake news amid criticisms from rights groups that it is a ruse to stifle free speech.
The National Broadcasting Commission had recently amended the Broadcast Code, hiking the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million, a move which has been challenged in court.
A bill that imposes the death penalty on “any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person” is currently before the Senate.
Tagged “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches”, the bill is sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Abdullahi Aliu Sabi (APC, Niger State).
It states in part, “Any person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging.”
On offences like harassment on the basis of ethnicity, racial contempt, the bill proposes not less than a five-year jail term or a fine of not less than N10 million or both.