One of Nigeria’s most influential media bodies, the Online Publishers Association of Nigeria, OPAN, will hold its 4th annual New Media Conference, NMC, on April 21.

In a press statement made available to the media and signed by OPAN President and Secretary, Mr. Austyn Ogannah and Daniel Elombah, respectively, it was revealed that the theme for this year’s conference “The Social Media and Hate Speech Bills: Implications for Press Freedom In Nigeria.”

Ogannah said, “The strategic importance of this conference is apparent, given the anxieties and political tensions in the country. These stress and strain on our nation have been heightened by the introduction of the two bills that have been tagged, ‘Social Media and Hate Speech bills’ at the National Assembly. These bills are dangerous and seriously infringes on the rights of citizens.

“The authors of these bills cite fake news as a trigger. Without a doubt, fake news and its impact on the politics and national security are of global concern. However, human rights defenders fear that laws that widen the net to criminalise free speech would shrink the civic space, threaten individual freedoms, and violate the nation’s constitution.

“Recognising these valid concerns on all sides, OPAN decided to focus our intervention on bringing together the important stakeholders to address the threats and opportunities before us in this pivotal time in nation’s history.”

Those expected at this year’s conference include: online publishers, bloggers, online journalists, and social media influencers with emphasis on legal frameworks and digital technology in the New Media space.

The release added that the conference, which will hold at The Civic Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos, “is building on the success of last year’s event where Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was guest speaker.”

OPAN General Secretary, Elombah, said, “Attendance at our conferences have always covered the sectors crucial to the development of the media space. Key figures in government, private sector, media, Law and human rights will be in attendance.”

OPAN, the umbrella body for organisations in digital media practice, with over 120 members was registered in 2011. It is not only self-regulatory, but also seeks to enforce relevant standards and minimum practices that will ensure significant improvement in the quality of media contents and practice in the industry.

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