The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has described the Nigerian Press Council Bill 2018, which is before the Senate as draconian and anti-press freedom.
The Guild, which also condemned promoters of the bill, berated the senate for passing the bill for second reading in spite of the subsisting court case.
In a communiqué issued at the end of its standing committee meeting held, Friday, at Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja, the guild said that the bill seeks to cage the media in Nigeria and vowed that none of its members
would be nominated to serve in the council.
It, however, demanded that the bill should be consigned to the dustbin of history. The communiqué read in part: “The Nigerian Guild of Editors vehemently condemns the bill which seeks to criminalize journalists and
journalism practice, takes away the power of the law courts and usurps the constitutional duties of academic institutions and regulatory agencies such as the National Universities Commission (NUC).
“The Guild is piqued that the Senate could bring such a bill to the fore in spite of a subsisting court case on the same subject without minding that it is sub judice.
“The Guild wonders why the sponsors of this bill are fixated on muzzling the press using draconian laws which are clearly targeted at making the watchdog toothless. Sections 22 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, are clear on the role of the media.
“The Guild perceives this bill as provocative, primitive, anti-people and anti-press freedom at a time when advocacy for free press is gaining stridency across the world.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) has asked the National Assembly to halt further discussions on the Nigerian Press Council Bill, 2018 pending the determination of the similar case before
the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
A statement, which was signed by the NPO president, Chief Nduka Obaigbena, who is also the President, Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, asked the Senate to learn from other climes where journalism is practiced without government’s interference.
The statement was also co-signed by the President, Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), Mrs. Funke Egbemode, President, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Comrade Waheed Odusile, and four others.
“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 has expressly provided for and guaranteed press freedom without any form of government interference,” the statement added.