The Nigerian Guild of Editors said on Tuesday that the Nigerian media was not a political opponent or enemy of the Federal Government.
According to the NGE, many of the attacks on the media by the political elite are designed to bully media organizations.
The NGE in a statement by its President, Mustapha Isah; and General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, was reacting to what it described as “draconian provisions’’ in the two bills to amend the Nigerian Press Council Act and the National Broadcasting Commission Act currently before the National Assembly.
The NGE called on the National Assembly to remove the obnoxious provisions in the two bills that make it look as if they were meant to strangulate, instead of regulating the media.
The statement reads partly, “At a time there is a popular ongoing global conversation about the need for #NewDealForJournalism – for immediate and sustained action from, and collaboration between governments and other influential actors to improve the policy, funding, and enabling environment for independent professional journalism, we see the proposed legislations as unhelpful.
“While we are not opposed to an Act that will promote media stakeholders-driven regulatory council, the many draconian provisions in the Odebunmi Olusegun’s sponsored bills are actually aimed at criminalising media practice in Nigeria. While the intention of the sponsor of the bills is suspicious; the bills negate all known features of media regulatory bodies in the world.”
The NGE said while the NPC Act. CAP N128, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1992, created by the military dictatorship, gave the Council Board full responsibility to administer the council, the proposed Act restricts the council board to “advisory capacity on a part-time basis without direct interference in the day to day administration of the council and gives the Executive Secretary all the power.”
“While the proposed NPC Act says the board shall consist of one representative each from the Nigeria Union of Journalists; Nigerian Guild of Editors; Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria; Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria; Ministry of Information; two representative of the general public, one of whom shall be a legal practitioner and a woman; and Executive Secretary of the council, who shall serve as the secretary to the board, the board is a mere advisory body.
‘’The bill also says that the chairman of the board shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Minister in charge of Information. And that all other members of the board shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation by the Minister of Information. The intension of this kind of council is suspicious,” the statement said.
The NGE said that the professional body doesn’t need the approval of the Minister of Information to establish and disseminate National Press Code and standards to guide the conduct of print media, related media houses and media practitioners and approves penalties and fines against violation of the press code, as provided for in the bill.
‘’The Guild is not aware of any media regulatory council in the world, which says that media regulatory council shall establish a National Press and Ethical Code of Conduct for media houses and media practitioners, which shall come into effect and be disseminated after approval by the Minister of Information, and that the code shall be binding on every media houses and journalists.
“Again, apart from the fines for journalist or media houses that violate the code, the bill also says that in an extreme case, the council shall order the striking out of the name of the journalist from the register; and suspend the person from practice by ordering him not to engage in practice as a journalist for a period not exceeding six months; as may be specified in the directive.
“This kind of media regulatory council will neither serve the interest of the media industry, strengthen its constitutional role of holding public officers accountable to the people nor serves the general interest of the public – who are the original trustees of the media,’ the NGE stated.
The body stressed that in the proposed NPC legislation, the sponsor smuggled in the controversial “fake news’’ provision by stating that any person who used news, established to be fake thereafter, commited an offence and was liable on conviction to a fine of N5m or a term of two-year imprisonment or both, and a compensation of N2m payable to the person(s), group(s), corporate bodies, government or any of its agencies whom the news was used against.
The NGE said the provisions of the two bills give the impression that the Federal Government “is out to crush its enemy,” saying that the media was not an enemy of the state.
The organization added that the two bills if passed, would compound the nation’s negative image in the global community.
The statement said the bills were seen by many as attempts to further stifle the democratic space in the country that was currently having challenges in all fronts.
The editors said they were also opposed to heavy involvement of the President and the Minister of Information in the composition of appointments into the boards of NBC and the NPC, saying the board members should appoint their own chairmen.
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