The regulation of social media, especially concerning offenders preying on young girls, is being considered, information minister Stanley Simataa said yesterday.
Simataa said Cabinet has directed the ministry of information to regulate the use of social media, as it is being used to encourage young people to become pregnant.
At a Cabinet briefing yesterday, Simataa reasoned that the intention is not to muzzle everybody, but to ensure that the government has legal remedies to deal with social media offenders who abuse it to transmit harmful messages to the girl child.
“We don’t want to muzzle anyone to use social media in a responsible manner. Don’t look at this issue in isolation but look at it as part of the measures we are devising as a nation to ensure there is adequate protection to the girl child who continues to be vulnerable to some of these opportunists’ messages,” Simataa defended government’s stance.
He explained this is meant for instances where social media is used to transmit messages that encourage young girls to indulge in activities that will lead to them falling pregnant.
Simataa stated there is a need to examine the current legal regime and determine whether there are enough remedies in place at the government’s disposal that they can draw on. He said they would isolate and deal with those who will go to the extreme of using social media to transmit these messages that are harmful to the girl child.
“We need to reset Namibia on a trajectory of a united nation. Express your disappointment with anybody on whatever issue, no one will muzzle you, but let’s try to do that in a cultured manner without contaminating whatever we are advancing,” he said.
The announcement has, however, been met with mixed reactions.
Namibia Media Trust strategic coordinator Zoe Titus said the minister is setting up a difficult task for himself to regulate social media, adding there are existing laws that can be used against sexual online offenders.
“I appreciate what the minister is trying to do as we all want to protect our children. The government does not have the capacity to regulate social media,” she said.
“You cannot regulate the way people communicate. There are existing laws that can be used if there is a criminal act perpetrated on social media. The issue of child rights protection is one aspect that the government is using to ban freedom of expression online.”
She added exposure to social media is not something that can be easily curbed.
“It’s a complex issue, but such a process must be a public process and not where the government goes willy-nilly and regulate social media. That is the first opportunity to give the government to go and switch social media on and off at its pleasure as they did in Ethiopia when they decided that they are going to switch off because of exams,” she noted. Research associate at the Institute for Public Policy Research Frederico Links questioned what research evidence the government has to prove that regulating social media is being used to encourage youth pregnancy.
“They sound like an imperious pretext. They don’t want to come out and say they don’t like the way young people are using social media to express themselves politically. So, they said ‘let’s use child online protection into social media regulation’ I suspect,” he said. Links questioned whether there is evidence of young people being raped or are into sexual relationships via social media. He said he was also worried that the Namibian authorities want to follow suit as other countries that use child online protection to limit freedom of expression.
“Its something we should be very worried about. If you see comments on Facebook, people are mocking this violation of freedom of expression and political engagement online. I am not saying this is the case, but put the facts on the table,” Links charged.
2020-02-07 07:56:00 | 16 days ago