The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has called on the federal government and security agencies to as a matter of urgency release all detained journalists forthwith.
The Guild in a communiqué issued during its standing committee meeting held on November 8, 2019, said their continued detention ran contrary to the grains of the constitution.
The communiqué was signed by the Guild’s acting president, Mustapha Isah and secretary, Mary Atolagbe.
“The Guild uses this opportunity to call on government and security agencies to release forthwith all journalists being detained nationwide, as their continued detention run contrary to the grains of the constitution,’’ the communiqué read.
The Guild also rejected the move by the federal government to regulate the social media, and advised it to jettison the idea.
It argued that the proposed legislation violates Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution, which guarantees “freedom of expression, including the right to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
The NGE declared the move as an attempt to gag the press, saying that previous efforts were usually “misconstrued by security agents and some public officials to harass, arrest and in most cases, illegally detain journalists and other Nigerians for holding their opinions.”
It urged the federal government to seek ways to maximise social media to disseminate information on its activities and policies.
NGE also called for engagement of the founders and promoters of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to curtail extremisms of violence and hate speech.
The Guild warned that the proposed regulation will further worsen the country’s rating in poor record of Press Freedom and Freedom of Speech, which stands at 120 out of 180 nations surveyed.
The group argued that instead of ‘sanitising’ the social media, the government should engage and collaborate with the media to combat fake news and rumour.
The Guild added that the country has sufficient laws, including the Cyber Crime Act 2015 to deal with ‘hate speech’ and ‘Fake News’.
NGE further advised the federal government to test the existing laws “in accordance with due process of the law rather than create another legal instrument and atmosphere that would give agents of state the latitude to harass and criminalise citizens especially journalists.”