The Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) has described the Nigerian Press Council Bill 2018 before the Senate as draconian and anti-press freedom, and should never see the light of day.
The NPO, comprising the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), the Nigeria Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) as well as other media stakeholders was held, came to this conclusion after its meeting in Lagos at the weekend to deliberate on “The Nigerian Press Council Bill 2018” before the Senate, which has gone through a second reading.
The organisation asked the National Assembly to halt further discussions on the bill, pending the determination of the similar case before the Supreme Court of Nigeria, said the bill seeks to cage the media in Nigeria and vowed that none of its members would be nominated to serve in the council.
In a statement signed by the NPO president, Chief Nduka Obaigbena 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.
It said meeting 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 and resolved as follows;
“The proposed bill is unconstitutional as it runs against the principles and tenets of the rule of law and is actually subjudice given that a case on the subject matter is still pending in the highest court of the land – the Supreme Court – in view of which the bill should not have been drafted in the first instance.
“That the bill is, for all intents and purposes, draconian and anti-press freedom being an amalgamation of the obnoxious Public Officers Protection Against False accusation Decree No. 4 of 1984 and the Newspapers Registration Decree 43 of 1993, both vestiges of the dark days of military rule and therefore incurably and irreparably bad, being also inconsistent with values of our democratic society.
“That the bill seeks to criminalize journalism practise despite the fact the laws of the country already have enough provisions and avenues for seeking legal redress,” among others.