NBC, NPC amendment bill: #FixPolitics backs freedom of press

The #FixPolitics initiative, a citizens-led research-based initiative designed for structural change of politics and governance in Nigeria has raised her voice to defend the freedom of the press following the suspension of the bill for the amendment to the laws establishing the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Nigeria Press Council (NPC).

A statement signed by the Executive Director, #FixPolitics, Anthony Ubani, and Co-Chair, Remi Sonaiya reads; “The National Assembly to gag the press and all democratic voices in the country through the current move to amend the laws establishing the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

“We take our stand firmly alongside the Nigerian Press, particularly the Nigerian Guild of Editors, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and other civil society bodies that have equally expressed their consternation at this unacceptable development.

“The two bills currently being considered by the House of Representatives and sponsored by Mr. Olusegun Odebunmi (APC, Oyo State), are outright authoritarian and constitute a blatant attempt to stifle free speech and the voice of Nigerian citizens, as they seek to hand over control of the Press to the Ministry of Information. This move must be properly understood in the context of a government which is increasingly intolerant of criticism and divergent opinions and which continues to fail in its primary responsibility of providing security and basic services to the Nigerian populace.

“Recent developments in the country have raised concerns globally about the deteriorating state of press freedom in the country; these include the harassment and arrest of journalists, the closure of media houses and imposition of fines resulting from spurious allegations. The bills being proposed are intended to impose very strict conditions on journalists and media houses seeking to cover government proceedings. For example, access to the National Assembly will be restricted for journalists, while media houses will have to prove that they have a daily, hard copy circulation of 40,000 copies or substantial online presence, with at least 5,000 daily views.

“There are several other restrictions proposed in the bills, all with the intention of disqualifying journalists from gaining access to government news and reporting such to the Nigerian people.

“#FixPolitics expresses utter shock at these draconian laws and lauds the outrage by the Press, as portrayed on the front pages of several independent newspapers across the country on July 12, 2021. It is hoped that other media outlets and organisations, both traditional and internet-based, will join this important movement and resist the gagging of the Nigerian Press by the Buhari-led government and an apparent rubber-stamping National Assembly.

“We call on Nigerians everywhere to raise their voices to utterly condemn the further slide of Nigeria into lawlessness and anarchy, which is the inevitable endpoint of the current strong-arm tactics being deployed by the present administration. Nigeria is already being described as a failed (or failing) state; this move by the National Assembly might well be the final push needed to tip the nation over the precipice. #FixPolitics will stand with all Nigerians of goodwill, as well as friends of our beloved nation, to resist this evil move.

“A free press is the bastion of democracy everywhere. It is clear that the current leadership of the country does not countenance the democratic principles which Nigerians aspire towards, neither does it recognise the “office of the citizen” as the highest office in the land – with the responsibility to hold accountable every individual who wields power and authority on its behalf. This is a duty that we in #FixPolitics do not hold lightly. We will defend the Freedom of the Press and the Office of the Nigerian Citizen”.