The United Nations has described the death penalty clause in the proposed National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill introduced by Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Sabi Abdullahi as “barbaric and unacceptable.”
The spokesman, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Mr Olusola Macaulay, said this on Thursday in an interview with the Punch as the world body opposes the controversial bill, seen unfavourably by majority of Nigerians as an attempt by government to infringe on their right of freedom of speech.
Mr. Macaulay said the UN would not support the bill, disclosing that a UNESCO advocacy group, Media and Information Literacy Coalition, would soon meet with the National Assembly over the proposed legislation.
According to him, the UN would lobby the Federal Government on the legislation, saying what was needed is public enlightenment and education about hate speech and not a law stipulating the death penalty for violators.
The UN spokesman wondered why the government has not held politicians engaging in hate speech accountable, noting that many of them had said things that could destabilize the country without facing punishment
He said, “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.
“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.
“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.”
According to the Hate Speech bill, which passed the second reading this week at the Nigerian Senate, any person who violates the law shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging.