THE Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) has rejected the Nigerian Press Council Bill 2018, describing it as unconstitutional and irreparably bad.
The bill, which is at second reading stage at the Senate, seeks to empower the Nigerian Press Council on decisions relating to training institutions and professional qualifications that would be acceptable for journalism practice in Nigeria.
The NPO comprises the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and other media stakeholders.
A statement signed by NPAN President Nduka Obaigbena, NGE President Funke Egbemode, NUJ President Waheed Odusile, BON Chairman John Momoh, International Press Centre (IPC) Director Lanre Arogundade, Institute For Media and Society Executive Director Dr. Akin Akingbulu and Media Law Centre (MLC) Director Richard Akinnola said the bill, if signed, would “adversely and illegally interfere in media operations in Nigeria”.
The NPO said the bill would also be sub judice because a case against it is pending at the Supreme Court.
The statement read: “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.
“The bill seeks to criminalise journalism practice despite the fact the laws of the country already have enough provisions and avenues for seeking legal redress.”
The NPO accused the bill’s promoters of attempting to extra-judicially “usurp the powers of the courts” through the bill.
It was also stated that the bill could incapacitate the media in the exercise of its constitutional duties and obligations to “monitor governance and hold government accountable to the people.”
According to the NPO, the bill violates Section 39 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement Act) No. 2 of 1983 which is now part of the country’s laws.
It added: “That the bill through some of its other obnoxious provisions seeks to indoctrinate Nigerians, through the use and misuse of curricula in training of journalists and usurp the powers of the regulatory bodies in the educational sector affecting media training, especially the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
“The bill seeks to create the impression that the Nigerian media community does not take the issues of ethics and self-regulation seriously whereas it is a well-known fact that the mechanisms actually exist including the Code of Conduct of Journalists in Nigeria, the Ethics Committees of the NUJ and NGE and the recently launched Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage endorsed by media stakeholders.
The stakeholders made three demands, including that the bill should be dropped, the government should “guarantee press freedom” and “borrow from best practices in other jurisdictions”.