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Hate Speech Bill, Need for Caution

By Ahmed Abu, The Nigerian Voice, Maiduguri
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The NUJ calls on the Senate to tread with caution in their consideration of a bill before it that proposes capital punishment for hate speech offenders.

Specifically the bill suggests that any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person shall die by hanging upon conviction.

The bill is being sponsored by Senate Spokesperson, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, out of a growing concern over increased violence and hatred in the country.

While we share the views and concerns being expressed by the sponsor of this bill, it is pertinent to caution against prescribing capital punishment for hate speech, principally because this could be used indiscriminately against perceived political opponents by unscrupulous members of the political elite.

It is instructive to note that citizens are entitled to free speech even if they hold offensive and hurtful opinions. We also cannot forget that people have the right to be biased, even offensive in their speech even if journalism is different and we have to be aware of this.

It is therefore our considered opinion that it is pertinent to avoid such pitfalls in our bid to come up with legislations to curtail the excesses of citizens.

Shuaibu Usman Leman

Walin Shadalafiya

National Secretary