Media bills, like Decree 4, meant to stifle media freedom – Lawyers
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
“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.”
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.’