THE SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE RIGHT TO DIGNITY OF THE PERSON

Advances in information communication technology and the advent of the social media has brought about the discovery of numerous things it can achieve and its capacity to disseminate information which can reach millions of people all over the world in record time. We are now exposed to so much knowledge and information that it is a wonder how the human brain can assimilate such amount of knowledge, without exploding.

I have known and participated in social media for a couple of years, although the days of sending and receiving emails in business centers precede that. When I started my sojourn into the world of social media, it was with the excitement and caution of a child learning to walk for the first time. I was not sure of what to expect or what I would stumble upon and trust me I stumbled into a lot of stuff, from the good, to the bad and to the ugly.

These days, social media has become bigger with so many websites and blogs created and many are still being created on a daily basis, each tailored to cater for the needs of different kinds of people all over the world. Right now we have the most popular social media sites being Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkdin and recently Snap-chat and a host of other sites including online-dating sites are also available and tailored to suit the needs and fantasies of various persons.

Nigeria is not left behind in this social media trend; as a matter of fact one can comfortably say because of her population, Nigeria has the highest number of social media users in Africa. The recently concluded Big Brother Africa reality show saw millions of Nigerians interacting on social media, supporting their preferred housemates (#teamEfe #teamBisola, #Bossnation) and casting their respective votes for them. Social media has also brought good popularity to some people who otherwise would be unknown and their respective talents hidden, e.g. Toke Makinwa and a host of others including Bobrisky! 😀

On social media, people post photos, videos of themselves and other people carrying out all kinds of activities; from the normal to the outrageous. We have seen it all! Last year (2016) can easily be said to have witnessed the largest social media boom since its arrival. We all love the Internet because it has made life much easier and the world smaller than it used to be. I sometimes wonder how we survived before the Internet and social media. Funny thing is, even back then I didn’t think life was boring, as we had our own limited activities which kept us occupied i.e. ten- ten, hopscotch, hopping from house to house visiting etc.

As much as we love social media and all the good things it offers, we shouldn’t forget the bad and ugly things it brings as well. We have seen where some people post videos of themselves or other persons committing crimes and all sorts of abuses or atrocities against others. What most people don’t realise is that doing this sometimes constitutes a violation of the right to dignity of person(s), which is fundamental to all other rights. It can arguably be said that most human rights are derived from human dignity, as it is the core of human rights law. This is why it is a fundamental right enshrined in Chapter 4 of the Constitution; Section 34(1) states that:

“Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and      accordingly –

(a) no person shall be subject … to inhuman or degrading treatment”

Dignity is defined as:

“An individual or group’s sense of self-respect and self-worth, physical and psychological integrity and empowerment.”

 Inhuman or degrading treatment happens when someone is treated in a way that is both humiliating and debasing, making them feel less than their worth. It is even worse when a person is debased and then photos or videos of the act splashed all over social media. When one is stripped of their dignity; which makes the core of the person’s existence, it is very difficult to get the person back to the place of self worth. This is why this is a fundamental right which international, regional and local laws recognise and places as important.

In the process of sharing information and/or getting likes or traffic to their sites, some social media sites/blogs post photos or videos that can be said to humiliate the subject of the story. It’s worse when such a person is an innocent party like a child who isn’t aware of the events at hand. One is then left to wonder if exposing a victim of abuse in a degrading way is of any use to him/her. I might also add that neither does it add to the evidence against the perpetrator. All that happens is the dignity of the person whose picture or video has been publicly displayed is violated. There have been many videos and photos of children being molested, girls being raped and assaulted, men being beaten and stripped naked for crimes they were alleged to have committed and said videos posted on social media. These do not in any way make the situation better or justify said acts. Instead it causes further trauma to the person(s) who were abused and makes our society indifferent to human dignity and respect for sanctity of the person.

We might ask why will the citizens respect human dignity when even the law enforcement agencies don’t? The same law enforcement agents who are meant to protect these rights carry out a lot of disrespectful acts against citizens. We have seen a number of cases where they strip alleged suspects and beat them up for offences committed against them, for which the law has clearly provided processes of arrest, charge and prosecution of suspects. I will answer that by saying we have the power to call the law enforcement agents and military to order, by reporting and not emulating them. As a matter of fact there have been several cases of errant officers/soldiers being disciplined for assault and battery of civilians. This means their leadership realizes it is wrong and that there are consequences for such actions. We still have a long way to go, but if we as citizens show our abhorrence for wrongs done to us, by those constitutionally mandated to protect us, rather than following them, then the leaders will think twice before doing such. This applies to every aspect of governance and not just concerning dignity of human person.

Our lives, bodies and wellbeing are important and should be treated as such. It is a different case if one willingly bares themselves; at least it was done willingly. In any case no one will put himself out there in a debased or humiliated state, unless it’s a specific cry for help. We all need to exercise control before we post anything on social media, especially when it has negative effects on the bodily integrity of another person. We need to sit back, think and ask these questions before we post stuff on social media (not exhaustive):

  1. Is this post useful or fair to the victim i.e. will this help the victim access the needed help?
  2. Is it going to get the perpetrator apprehended to face justice?
  3. Is it just to gain popularity or traffic to the blog?
  4. Will it enlighten, educate or inform the audience or is it just for entertainment?
  5. If tables were turned will you like to be the one in that picture or video?

Have a blessed week and enjoy the rest of your day!

 

NB: Article was first published on Bellanaija.com as a features article. 

Please leave your questions and comments.

Why Human Rights?

Unless you live under a rock, you must have heard about the call for a nationwide protest march made by Tuface Idibia that has been circulating on the social media for about a week now. Tuface has requested that all Nigerians join him on February 6 2017 in a protest march tagged “Enough is Enough” against the government and its policies, which have caused recession and suffering in the country. This call is not without the attendant controversies, with many people reacting in different ways to his call. While some people think it is necessary, some others think it is not. Many Nigerians, ordinary and public figures, have expressed interest in taking part in this nationwide protest march; one of those who recently showed interest in being part of the protest march is the Governor of Ekiti state, Ayo Fayose (that’s not surprising though). We all know that this (protest march) would not have been possible in Nigeria many years ago during the dark military era because a lot of people would have been arrested, in fact, heads would have rolled! (Is any one left wondering why we are still recycling military leaders in this country?). In all of this, I think to myself this is progress and human rights at work!

When I told a friend that I wanted to concentrate more on human rights related issues on my blog, he asked “why human rights?” I wondered to myself, “why not?” I know that most other blogs deal with entertainment, gossip, fashion, politics and many other topics, but why have I chosen to focus this blog on human rights related issues?

There are a number of reasons; some that readily come to mind are: first and foremost, this is what I am an expert in, partly because I have a Master of Laws degree in international human rights law and because I have worked in the human rights field for over a decade. Now lets go to another reason; Human rights is the core of our existence- it is the only privilege that is bestowed on us immediately we are born, the tragedy here is that most people do not know this. A lot of people do not know that government is a custodian of power that we give them and we are actually the ones with the power. We are the “right holders” and government is the “duty bearer” The government therefore has a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill our human rights; this is an obligation that it owes to us. This obligation is not a personal favour that a government bequeaths as it deems fit to a priviledged few, but an obligation that it is expected to achieve for every citizen of its country, regardless of sex, religion, beliefs, tribe and any other difference you can think of. Our government has committed itself under the Constitution and other international laws to carry out this three-fold responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill our rights and therefore can be held accountable by the people and the international community for failure to do so. This responsibility can be broken down as follows:

  • The obligation to respect means that government must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights.
  • The obligation to protect requires government to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses.
  • The obligation to fulfill means that government must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.

Has our government lived up to its responsibilities? Are our rights being respected, protected and fulfilled as Nigerians?

For many years, Nigerians have suffered and continue to suffer from corruption, insecurity, inter-communal clashes, political violence, violations of rights by security agents of the state and so many other violations and abuses. We have largely kept quiet, sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of ignorance and most of the time because we are not directly affected, that is, until we actually become affected. A person without knowledge whose right is being violated will definitely be fearful because he or she is not equipped to speak up or act in defence of his/her right or seek help to protect him or herself. This is why a lot of wrongs do not get corrected and why the status quo has not changed for such a long time.

I am actually glad that we have transitioned over the years- from being silent, to grumbling within closed doors, to a bold few going out to protest and getting arrested for doing so (during the military era), to a social media awareness period that brought about protesters behind the screens of their computers, to people coming out to protest, being fully aware that they will not be arrested for exercising their rights (I believe that will be the case in this proposed up coming protest).

A nationwide protest, while it is an exercise of a fundamental right under the Constitution and under international law is and should always be welcomed. However it should aim to be peaceful, effective and results oriented. Why will thousands of people leave their homes, jobs and families on a Monday morning to go out to protest under the scorching sun and at the end of the day, they don’t achieve results? I will like to believe that organisers of this protest have a clear mandate on what they hope to achieve with the protest. A nationwide protest that does not change the status quo will be an exercise in futility.

So, how many of you are taking part in the nationwide protest?

 Toodles!

PS: Don’t forget our Human Rights Free Clinic where we answer your human rights related questions or issues that you are confused about and need clarification on. Fill our contact form and we will get back to you with the professional advise that you need.