From July 12, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration will be the subject of the first-in-a-while protest by Nigeria’s mainstream media against attempts at media gagging and restriction of citizens’ rights to choice of medium used in accessing information.
The Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria on Wednesday said it will tackle Buhari on descending a democratic system back into the draconian military era with a uniform artwork that will be published on all front-pages.
Feyi Smith, representing the association, in a statement at a meeting in Lagos, condemned a bill pushed by the current administration, empowering the Press Council to determine ethics and fake news, investigate infractions and impose fines on journalists, publishers and distributors.
It proposes a jail term of one to three years and fines ranging from N2.5 million to N5 million on journalists, newsagents and media outlets.
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“The bill, draconian and anti-press freedom is a poor mix and resurrection 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. It assumes that there are no extant laws to penalise media infractions and exact restitution for the aggrieved persons, the statement said.
“The new NBC is no less galling, making the minister of Information the monster minister with sweeping powers to make and enforce regulations online and offline.”
The association noted that the bill is a sinister legislative ambush that seeks to choke the media with the exact commitment of the NPAN before the Supreme Court of Nigeria to hold governments to account to the people at all times, as enshrined in Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
NPAN also accused the legislature of going on with the bill without a formal invitation to key stakeholders such as NPAN, Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).