On Monday, 12th July, all major newspapers in Nigeria carried on the front pages an advertisement decrying the move of the Nigerian government to stiffle the Nigeria Media.
The advert had in bold ‘Information blackout’ had the picture of a man whose face is covered with the activities of the media which include, news, analysis and editorial.
The advert was sponsored by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigeria Guild if Editors (NGE) and Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN).
The advert also states “This is what the National Assembly wants to achieve with the NPC and NBC (Media) Act Amendment Bills.
“It is not just against the media… It is about Society’s right to know, your right to be heard.”
About the NPC and NBC (Media) Act Amendment Bills
The Nigeria Press Council (NPC) and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code (NBC) are under the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria which states the way the media behaves in Nigeria.
The proposed NPC Act states that the Board shall consist of one representative each from the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ); Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE); Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN); Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON); Ministry of Information; two representatives of the general public, one of whom shall be a legal practitioner and a woman and the Executive Secretary of the council, who shall serve as the secretary to the Board, the board is a mere advisory body.
The Bill also says that the Chairman of the Board shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Minister in charge of Information and all other members of the Board shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation by the Minister of Information.
On fines and punishment for Violators of the Act, the bills further seeks to strike out the name of any journalist from the register and suspend the journalist from practice by ordering him not to engage in practice as a journalist for a period not exceeding six months in extreme cases of the violation of the act.
Nigerian Editors Make A Statement
The Editors stated the bill will not be this kind of media regulatory council is not in the interest of the media industry neither does it nor serve the general interest of the public, who are the original trustees of the media.
In a statement by the Nigeria Guild of Editors in June 2021 stated that it is of the view that the professional body doesn’t need the approval of the Minister of Information to establish and disseminate a National Press Code and standards to guide the conduct of print media, related media houses and media practitioners and approves penalties and fines against violation of the press code, as provided for in the bill.
“The Guild is not aware of any media regulatory council in the world, which says media regulatory council shall establish a National Press and Ethical Code of Conduct for media houses and media practitioners, which shall come into effect and be disseminated after approval by the Minister of Information, and that the code shall be binding on every media houses and journalists.
“Again, apart from the fines for journalists or media houses that violate the Act, the bill also says that in an extreme case, the council shall order the striking out of the name of the journalist from the register”, the statement which was signed by the Guild’s President, Mr. Mustapha Isah and General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren stated.
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The body of editors argued that the media, which serve as the ‘oxygen of democracy’ would be strangulated if the bills are passed into law.
They also noted that the pool of the sponsor of the bills is suspicious as the bills negate all known features of media regulatory bodies in the world.
“At a time there is a popular ongoing global conversation about the need for a #NewDealForJournalism”, for immediate and sustained action from, and collaboration between governments and other influential actors to improve the policy, funding, and enabling environment for independent professional journalism, we see the proposed laws as unhelpful.”