Nigerian government intensifies bid to control online media

The Buhari administration has stepped up efforts to regulate the online media in Nigeria in what is seen by many as attempts to further stifle the civic space in the country.

Two weeks after blocking Twitter’s operations, the federal government has asked the House of Representatives to enact a law that will empower the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to control all forms of internet broadcasting and social media.

The request was made on Wednesday by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, during a public hearing organized by the house committee on information, national orientation, ethics, and values on a bill to amend the NBC Act.

The commission already controls television and radio broadcasting in Nigeria, based on provisions in Section 2(b) of the NBC Act. It states that “the Commission shall have [the] responsibility of receiving, processing and considering applications for the establishment, ownership or operation of radio and television stations including cable television services, direct satellite broadcast and any other medium of broadcasting.”

Lai Mohammed now wants the commission to also regulate the online media, in addition to other channels of broadcasting. “I want to add here specifically that internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have a responsibility to monitor contents, including Twitter,” the minister told lawmakers.

Before Lai Mohammed’s proposal, the broadcasting regulator had asked all social media platforms and service providers in the online broadcasting space in Nigeria to apply for a broadcast license.

Despite the ban on Twitter, Nigerians continue to use the platform thanks to virtual private networks (VPNs) that help bypass the suspension. Many have taken to Twitter to express criticism over the proposed regulation of online media.

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