An Evaluation Of The Hate Speech Bill And Its Breach On Democratic Doctrines In Nigeria (A Review Of Public Perception)
1.1 Background Of The Study
Democracy is adjudged as the most popular system of government in the world. It is popularly seen as the government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Democracy as an ideology is the philosophy of governance which sets a high premium on the basic freedoms or fundamental human rights of citizens, the rule of law, the right to property, the free flow of information and the right of choice between alternative political positions. Simply put, democracy is a system of politics in which sovereignty is vested in the people rather than in a small clique or an oligarchy, where the rule of law, majority rule, and constitutionalism are basic guiding principles of governance.
Nigeria joined the league of democratic nations in 1999. One of the cardinal points of a true democracy is freedom. The ability to be free is most expressed in one‘s capacity to express himself freely without any physical or psychological threats (by the government or otherwise). Today we have social media which permits individuals or groups to sit in the comfort of their bedrooms or offices and, with a click of the mouse or a tap on the screen, express themselves freely to millions of other users who are not restricted by the physically defined borders and boundaries of countries or regions. However, freedom of expression and the press mean the liberty to say what one wishes to say, subject to the consequences under the law, as the case may be, which laws must be fair and reasonably justifiable in a constitutional democracy. Thus, at anytime when this freedom of speech is forbidden, it infringes on the fundamental human right of freedom of expression and that of the press.
Recently, Nigerians were faced with the news of a very controversial bill being considered by the Senate. The proposed law, publicly known as the Hate Speech Bill, is sponsored by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs. The Hate Speech Bill, according to its sponsor in the Senate, seeks to eliminate hate speech and discourage harassment on the grounds of ethnicity, religion, or race, among others. It prescribes stiff penalties for offences such as ethnic hatred.. Any person who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and/or directs the performance of any material, written and/or visual, which is threatening, abusive, or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive, or insulting words, commits an offence, it states (Punch, 2018). If this is not scary enough, the penalties are: a jail sentence of not less than five years or a fine of not less than N10 million or both for these offenses. Capping it all is the prescription of the death penalty, where any form of hate speech results in the death of another person (Punch, 2018). Hate speeches are utterances, typed documents, advertorials, musicals, or any form of literature that is used to attack an individual or a group – religious, social, political, business, gender, or race. In some countries, hate speech can fall under the law of sedition, incitement to violence, verbal abuse and the likes. While some people claim that the intention of classifying the hate speech bill as a criminal act infringes on the rights of citizens to freedom of expression as guaranteed in the Constitution, others hold the view that it is a breach of democratic doctrine.
1.2 Statement Of The Problem
The freedom of the general public, anyone and everyone, including the press and civil society organizations, to receive and to impart ideas and information by speech, printed word, and other media is guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution both in sections 22 and 39 of the Constitution. Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution provides as follows: Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
However, since the introduction of the Hate Speech Bill recently, the debate about what constitutes hate speech, particularly on social media, has become a new national discussion. Critical sections of society, the mass media, civil society, pressure groups, academia, writers and creative/performing artists that may bear the main brunt of the obnoxious law have been curiously and dangerously indifferent, as only a few voices have raised the alarm. Many of them are of the opinion that the hate speech bill is a breach of true democratic principles, hence it is uncalled for. Therefore, it is upon the premise that this study seeks to evaluate the hate speech bill as a breach of democratic principles in Nigeria as obtained from the public perspective.
1.3 Objective Of The Study
The main focus of this study is to present an evaluation of the hate speech bill and its breach on democratic doctrines in Nigeria. Specifically the study seek to
- Ascertain the nature nature of hate speech.
- Examine the factors that led to establishment of hate speech bill.
- Investigate if the hate speech bill is an infringement to the freedom of expression.
- Determine if the hate speech is bridge on democratic doctrine in Nigeria
1.4 Research Hypothesis
- HO1: The hate speech bill is not an infringement to the freedom of expression.
HI1: The hate speech bill is an infringement to the freedom of expression.
- HO2: The hate speech bill is not a bridge on democratic doctrine of Nigeria
HO2: The hate speech bill is a bridge on democratic doctrine of Nigeria.
1.5 Significance Of The Study
Findings from the study will be significantly relevant to the government, popular social media CEO’s, the general public and for academic purposes. Social media owners hope the study will enlighten them on the need to establish a mechanism for verification of information shared by users as well as review the hate bill in such a way that it does not infringe on the freedom of speech of citizens and make a mockery of Nigerian democracy. More so for the government, the study will enable them to initiate an agreement with social media owners used by their citizens and come up with regulatory and filtering functions in order to curb misinformation shared by those platforms. Finally, the study will contribute empirically to the body of knowledge and serve as a reference material for both students and scholars who wish to conduct further studies in related fields.
1.6 Scope Of The Study
The scope of this study borders on the evaluation of the hate speech bill and its bridge on democratic doctrines in Nigeria. It will ascertain the nature nature of hate speech and what factors led to the initiation of hate speech bill. It will ascertain if the initiation of the hate speech bill is a breach on the democratic doctrine of Nigeria even as limits the freedom of speech of Citizens. The study is however delimited to Facebook Users in Edo State.
1.7 Limitation Of The Study
This research project, like all human endeavors, had some challenges that threatened to derail the study’s completion. One of the reasons is that the time allotted for this work was so limited that the researcher did not have enough time to complete the task thoroughly. During data collection, the researcher also had to put forth extra effort to understand the respondents’ interview schedules, several of whom fell into the incomprehensible age group. Also, there were finance and transportation constraints to deal with. Insufficient funds tend to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire, interview).
1.8 Definition Of Terms
Public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.
Hate Speech Bill:
Hate speech bill is a proposed legislation under consideration by a legislature in order to regulate public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation shared on media platforms.
Democratic principles are reflected in all eligible citizens being equal before the law and having equal access to legislative processes. Such as Legal equality, political freedom and rule of law are often identified as foundational characteristics for a well-functioning democracy.
Human rights are moral principles or norms for certain standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected in municipal and international law.
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