17th May 2016, Abuja, Nigeria: A “Frivolous Petitions Bill” aimed at preventing citizens from posting on social media has been withdrawn by the Nigerian Senate after failure to win enough votes and staunch opposition by Nigerian civil society groups.
Officially named “an act to prohibit frivolous petitions; and other matters connected therewith”, and popularly called the “Social Media Bill”, it was considered to be an attempt to prevent Nigerians from discrediting public officials and would have imposed penalties of up to $10,000 and two years in jail.
Nigerian civil society groups, who rallied around the hashtag #notosocialmediabill, pressured lawmakers in the Nigerian Senate to drop the bill before it could be passed along to the House of Representatives. A coalition of groups, including SRT grantee Access Now, delivered a letter to the Senate stating objections to the bill and outlining the potential negative implications on free expression and the economy. Fittingly, the Senate confirmed withdrawal of the bill in a tweet.
Social media has become a crucial outlet for a new generation of Nigerians who are keen to demand more accountability and transparency in government. “This is a victory for Nigeria and free expression in the digital age,” said Deji Olukotun, Senior Global Advocacy Manager at Access Now. “At a time when Africa’s largest democracy has committed to fighting corruption and combating Boko Haram, the bill would have criminalized reporting by journalists and prevented citizens from holding their officials accountable.”
Further details from Access Now’s website: https://www.accessnow.org/nigeria-withdraws-controversial-social-media-bill-victory-free-expression
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