NPO, BON, Other Media Stakeholders Condemn Press Council Bill

NPO, BON, Other Media Stakeholders Condemn Press Council Bill

…Say it reminds of dark days of military rule  The Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO), comprising the Newspapers Proprietors of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) and other media stakeholders have stridently condemned The Nigerian Press Council Bill 2018 saying that it “seeks

…Say it reminds of dark days of military rule

 The Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO), comprising the Newspapers Proprietors of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) and other media stakeholders have stridently condemned The Nigerian Press Council Bill 2018 saying that it “seeks to criminalize journalism practise despite the fact the laws of the country already have enough provisions and avenues for seeking legal redress.”

A statement jointly signed after the stakeholders meeting, held on Thursday to deliberate on the “implication of the proposed bill for free speech, press freedom, media independence, safety of journalists and the right to operate as a business in accordance with the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” says, “The proposed bill is unconstitutional as it runs against the principles and tenets of the rule of law and is actually subjudice given that a case on the subject matter is still pending in the highest court of the land – the Supreme Court – in view of which the bill should not have been drafted in the first instance”.

“The bill is, for all intents and purposes, draconian and anti-press freedom being an amalgamation of the obnoxious Public Officers Protection Against False Accusation Decree No. 4 of 1984 and the Newspapers Registration Decree 43 of 1993, both vestiges of the dark days of military rule and therefore incurably and irreparably bad, being also inconsistent with values of our democratic society,” says the statement signed by NPAN President, Mr Nduka Obaigbena, BON Chairman, Mr John Momoh, NUJ President, Mr Waheed Odusile and the NGE President, Mrs Funke Egbemode.

The bill, they also say, “smacks of an attempt at undue interference in the operations of the media in Nigeria as businesses registered under the relevant laws of the federation.”

They also decry the move where “the bill seeks for a The Nigeria Press Council to usurp the powers of the courts by assuming extra-judicial powers.”

The statement also signed by Director, International Press Centre (IPC), Mr Lanre Arogundade, Executive director, Institute of media studies (IMS), Dr Akin Akingbulu and Director, Media Law Centre, Mr Richard Akinnola, says, “the bill seeks to incapacitate the media in the exercise of the duties and obligations imposed on it by section 22 of the constitution to monitor governance and hold government accountable to the people.”

The section states as follows: “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people”.

They also contend that the bill violates the provisions of section 39 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) sections 1 and 2 of which state as follows:

“(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions”

They miffed that “it also violates Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement Act) No. 2 of 1983 to which Nigeria is a signatory and which is now part of the country’s laws.”

According to the statement, “the bill through some of its other obnoxious provisions seeks to indoctrinate Nigerians, THROUGH THE USE AND MISUSE of curricula in training of journalists and usurp the powers of the regulatory bodies in the educational sector affecting media training especially the National Universities Commission and the National Board for Technical Education.”

They also argue that “the bill seeks to create the impression that the Nigerian media community does not take the issues of ethics and self regulation seriously whereas it is a well known fact that the mechanisms actually exist including the Code of Conduct of Journalists in Nigeria, the Ethics Committees of the NUJ and NGE and the recently launched Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage endorsed by media stakeholders.”

They therefore demanded that “the bill should be dropped forthwith until the determination of a similar case in the Supreme Court of Nigeria.” They urge the Nigerian Senate to “borrow from best practices in other jurisdictions that has expressly provided for and guaranteed press freedom without any form of government interference.”

They also call on the Senate and indeed The National Assembly to “enable the media in the exercise of its constitutional obligations as spelt out in section 22 by passing laws that will promote transparency, accountability and open government such as mandatory delivery of the State of the Nation address by the President and State of The State Address by Governors on specified days of the year; ensuring by law, Presidential and Governorship Election Debates before elections;  complete transparency in election funding including public declaration of sources of election finance by all candidates and political parties and ensuring the integrity of our electoral process, etc”.

“As responsible members of Nigerian society, we hereby state without equivocation that the media will continue doing all it can to further promote media ethics, professionalism, transparency,  accountability and self-regulation, to ensure that the public interest is served at all times”, the  statement says.

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