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U.S. Foreign Policy Experts Encourage Nigeria to Reconsider its Move to Prohibit Free Speech

860x572xBuhari-at-Villa-2-jpg-pagespeed-ic-AaGL3VUF5B-601x400At the official launch of PREMIUM TIMES in the United States, Saturday, media and foreign policy experts in the Washington DC corridor urged the Nigerian Senate to reconsider its move to muzzle free speech through passage of the bill to “Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith” which seeks to restrict use of social and electronic media.

Jennifer Cooke, director of Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Baba Adam, a leading Nigerian academic and policy advocate in the United States, Reed Kramer, chief executive and co-founder of and other speakers at the event variously described the anti-social media bill as a distraction from urgent issues affecting governance.

In her keynote address, Ms. Cooke called for a policy shift that strengthen media for the purpose of democratic growth, adding that what Nigeria really needs is “media independence because media freedom is evidently pervasive in the country.”

The Bill, which passed a second reading in Nigeria’s Senate on Tuesday, takes pointed aim at freedom of expression and a free press which are protected by Section 39 of Nigeria’s constitution. If passed, it will restrain an estimated 15 million Nigerians who use social media, and 43 million of the 145 million active phone users who use text, instant or twitter direct messaging services according to data from Facebook, the Nigeria Communication Commission, and the 2015 mid-year Mobile Africa survey conducted by Geopoll.

Last September, Facebook announced that Nigeria had 15 million monthly active users as of June 30 this year, and that all of them use mobiles devices to “like, share and upload content on the social network.”

Ms. Cooke found support from other speakers at the event including Air Vice Marshal Muhammed Yakubu, the Defence attaché at the Nigerian Embassy and Gbara Awanen, who heads the political section of the Nigerian embassy and was represented by Wale Oloko of the economic section of the embassy.

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