You can’t hang people for expressing their mind; UN, UK vehemently condemns hate speech bill

The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

The United Nations and the United Kingdom have vehemently condemned the death penalty for hate speech proposed by Senator Sabi Abdullahi.

Senator Abdullahi, the Senate Deputy Chief Whip, had in his proposed National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill recommended death by hanging as the maximum penalty.

His bill has been widely condemned by Nigerians including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Prof. Wole Soyinka and others.

The United Nations in its reaction described the death penalty as barbaric, saying that its inclusion in the bill was unacceptable.

According to Punch, Olusola Macaulay, the spokesman for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, while reacting to the bill said the UN would not support the bill, adding that the Media and Information Literacy Coalition would meet with the National Assembly over the proposed bill.

“We are trying to pay an advocacy visit to the government and do some lobbying. There is a coalition working already, it was formed with the support of UNESCO,” he said (as seen on Punch).

“They are working to meet with the National Assembly to express their mind and possibly advise the government to have a different narrative to the issue of hate speech and fake news,” he added.

“I’m not sure what the government needs now is a bill or an idea to shut down people or prevent people from being able to express themselves or express their freedom of thought or information. What I think the government should do more is to enlighten the people.”

“Every human being has the right to life and you cannot cut off people’s lives just because someone has expressed his opinion. Nobody is saying hate speech is good.

“Hate speech and fake news have been there from time immemorial and it is barbaric to say now that we want to hang people because they expressed their feelings or what they had in mind. So, censoring people or limiting people from participating in politics might not be the correct thing. As I said, the best thing to do is to educate the people.”

He berated the government for ignoring politicians who say things that could destabilise the country, adding that most politicians are guilty of hate speech crime.

Many have asked if top officials in the current government and even President Muhammadu Buhari himself would still be alive if the hate speech bill had been in existence.

Also, the United Kingdom in its reaction through Chris Ogunmodede, the Senior Press and Public Affairs Officer, Bristish High Commission, Abuja, said; “The UK government is following discussions around the proposed Prohibition of Hate Speech bill closely.”

“We take a strong stand against hate speech, which can incite violence and damage community relationships within society.  We also strongly support the right of individuals to express opinions and peacefully challenge authority as an essential part of a free and open society.

“The UK strongly opposes the inclusion of the death penalty in any piece of legislation, as a matter of principle.”

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