The Punch

Media bills, like Decree 4, meant to stifle media freedom – Lawyers

- Maritha Ebolosue and Stephen Agwaibor

Two lawyers have described the Nigerian Press Council (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and National Broadcasti­ng Commission Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019 as another attempt by the government to stifle the media.

The media bills, sponsored by Mr olusegun odebunmi (APC, oyo State), currently being considered by the House of Representa­tives.

A human rights lawyer, Malachy Ugwummadu commended the Nigerian Press organisati­on for building a consensus against the bills.

He said, “It is clear that the entire media community is moving in one direction and this is commendabl­e. I really do not know how the government intends to win such a battle. There is no use trying to revive the suppressio­n and dictatorsh­ip of the past.

“If the government feels challenged by the activities of media practition­ers, it should not forget that there are numerous legislatio­ns and statutes relating to media practice. we have the general law of torts specifical­ly dealing with cases of libel and defamation. we also have several constituti­onal provisions which address the issues.

“Section 39 of the constituti­on provides for the freedom of expression, therefore, the government ought to first amend or alter the constituti­on in order to make the bill valid. In fact, this is like a reawakenin­g of the infamous Decree No. 4 of 1984 as this is not the first time the government is proposing bills attempting to stifle media freedom.”

Another legal practition­er, Ige Asemudarai, said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, wanted to run a dictatorsh­ip government.

“we have seen its manifestat­ion in countless cases of human rights abuse, especially those that have to do with press freedom.

“The attempts at gagging journalist­s and suffocatin­g press freedom under this regime have been too numerous. The two bills currently before the National Assembly are sinister and should be resisted by all well-meaning

Nigerians.

“From harassment of journalist­s to sealing of media houses, unlawful detention of journalist­s, the tyrannical banning of Twitter, and the different steps taken to censor free speech, this government has indubitabl­y proved that it hates the press and free speech.

Unfortunat­ely, the regime rode to power through the avalanche of free speech. Therefore, all Nigerians must rise up to ensure that we are not returned to 1984.”

#Fix Politics

backs NPO Meanwhile, a research-based initiative, #Fixpolitic­s, in a statement on wednesday by the Co-chair, Constituti­onal, Political and Electoral Reforms, Prof. Remi Sonaiya; and the Executive Director of

#Fixpolitic­s, Anthony Ubani, said the organisati­on stood with the press against the bills.

The statement reads partly, “The two bills 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 which continues to fail in its primary responsibi­lity of providing security and basic services to the Nigerian populace.

“#Fixpolitic­s expresses utter shock at these draconian bills and lauds the outrage by the press, as portrayed on the front pages of several independen­t newspapers across the country on July 12, 2021.”

The organisati­on called on Nigerians to speak up against the move while warning that the country was tethering on the brink of being described as a ‘failed state.’

 ?? Photo: Stanley Ogidi ?? •L-R: Chairman, Nigerian Bar Associatio­n-section on Business Law, Ayuli Jemide; Attorney General/commission­er for Justice, Lagos State, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN); President, Nigerian Bar Associatio­n, Olumide Akpata; and Chairman, 15th Annual Business Law Conference Planning Committee, Adeleke Alex-adedipe, during the opening ceremony of NBA-SBL 15th annual business conference in Lagos… on Wednesday.
Photo: Stanley Ogidi •L-R: Chairman, Nigerian Bar Associatio­n-section on Business Law, Ayuli Jemide; Attorney General/commission­er for Justice, Lagos State, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN); President, Nigerian Bar Associatio­n, Olumide Akpata; and Chairman, 15th Annual Business Law Conference Planning Committee, Adeleke Alex-adedipe, during the opening ceremony of NBA-SBL 15th annual business conference in Lagos… on Wednesday.

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