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Senate’s Press Council Bill will criminalise journalism, NGE, NPAN others warn

Senate’s Press Council Bill will criminalise journalism, NGE, NPAN others warn

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Leke Baiyewu, Abuja

Professional bodies and pressure groups in the media industry have opposed a bill at the Senate seeking to repeal and re-enact the law establishing the Nigerian Press Council.

The bodies, under the auspices of the Nigerian Press Organisation, described the legislation as illegal, alleging that the bill is attempting to criminalise journalism.

The was made known in a presentation by the President, Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria and President of the NPO, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, at a public hearing held in Abuja on Monday by the Senate Committee on Information and National Orientation on the bill.

The bill seeks to establish an Act to repeal the Nigeria Press Council Act 1992 (As Amended) and to enact the Nigerian Press Council Act 2018.

The media industry stakeholders however asked the Senate to step down the bill in the presentation jointly signed by Obaigbena for the NPO and NPAN; President, Nigeria Guild of Editors, Funke Egbemode; President, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Waheed Odusile; and Chairman, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, John Momoh.

Other signatories are the Director, International Press Centre, Lanre Arogundade; Executive Director, Institute For Media and Society, Akin Akingbulu; and Director, Media Law Centre, Richard Akinnola.

In the presentation, Obaigbena said the consensus on the bill was reached at a meeting of member organisations and media stakeholders held on July 19, 2018.

He said the NPO resolved that “the bill should be dropped forthwith until the determination of a similar case in the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

“That the Nigerian Senate should borrow from best practices in other jurisdictions that have expressly provided for and guaranteed press freedom without any form of government interference.

“That the Senate and, indeed, the National Assembly should enable the media in the exercise of its constitutional obligations as spelled 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.”

Obaigbena said the NPO further resolved to urge the Senate to make it mandatory for candidates to participate in presidential and governorship debates before elections, as well as “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.”

He said, “The meeting painstakingly studied the provisions of the proposed bill in the context of its implication 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.”

He added that the meeting also noted the fact that a law suit instituted by the Nigerian Press Organisation on the same subject matter as of the bill was pending at the Supreme Court.

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