Media chiefs from both the print and broadcast segments have voiced their opposition against the Nigerian Press Council Bill 2018, which is presently before the National Assembly.
The media henchmen representing the Nigerian Press Organisation (Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, the Nigeria Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Union of Journalists) and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, BON, after a meeting last Thursday, described the bill as “unconstitutional” as it impedes press freedom contained in section 22 of the 1999 constitution.
According to a statement signed by Nduka Obaigbena, the NPO and NPAN President; Funke Egbemode, NGE President; Waheed Odusile, NUJ President, and John Momoh, BON Chairman, the proposed bill is subjudice as there is a similar case before the Supreme Court.
The statement read, “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.
“That the bill is, to 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.”
The media leaders also alleged that the bill seeks to incapacitate the fourth estate of the realm and criminalise the journalism profession despite the repertoire of laws in existence to deal with ethical offences.
“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 the 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.
“That the bill seeks to criminalise journalism practice despite the fact the laws of the country already have enough provisions and avenues for seeking legal redress”, the statement read.
The media organisations, therefore, asked the Senate to stand down the bill pending the resolution of the similar suit by the Supreme Court.