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“It is not just against the media” – Nigerian National Newspapers protest amendment of NBC, NPC bills

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Major National dailies in Nigeria from Punch Nigerian Newspaper, to Vanguard Nigerian National Newspaper, to DailyTrust Nigerian National Newspaper, Business Day, Guardian, Daily Sun and others, Monday issued a unanimous statement of protests against the Nigerian Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the joint statement published across the front page of newspapers; the Nigerian dailies in collaboration with the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) accused the National Assembly of wanting an information blackout with the amendment of the Press Council, NPC, and the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC amendment bills.

A source conversant with the media organisations’ decision to declare Monday blackout explained to NewsWireNGR, “Our decision to declare a media blackout is to not only condemn government attempts to shrink the media space with the bills being deliberated at the National assembly but to also deny ensure that on this day of the blackout, no government story is reported by the media.

“Have you noticed the ridiculous clause introduced in the Nigerian Press Council bill”, our source who doesnt want his name mentioned in print said, “it is not only the Print media that is under attack just so you understand the magnitude of governments attempt to crackdown the media, the broadcast media is worst hit with the NBC amendment bill”..

“As Journalists and unions, we have had enough, and that is why the NUJ, NGE and NPAN is speaking in one voice with the nationwide blackout and you have seen all the front pages, what does that tell you? We have had enough..” – Our source concluded.

NewsWireNGR recalls that, a consortium of four media development and media freedom organizations had opposed the proposed amendment of the Nigerian Press Council Act by the National Assembly saying the measures contained in the amendment Bill seek to make the Government the arbiter of truth while subjecting the entire media sector in Nigeria to the control of the Minister of Information and Culture in violation of internationally accepted norms and standards.

The organizations, comprising the International Press Centre (IPC), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), the Centre for Media Law and Advocacy (CMLA), and the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), outlined their objections to the measures in a “Joint Memorandum” they presented to the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values at a public hearing in Abuja on the Proposed Bill for An Act to Amend the Nigerian Press Council Act.

The statement issued Monday along with the image of a human face wrapped with newspapers and gagged, reads, “Information blackout: This is what the National Assembly wants to achieve with the NPC and NBC amendment media act amendment bills,” the statement read with an image of an imprisoned metaphorical journalist.

“It is not just against the media ..  it is about the society’s right to know, your right to be heard,” it continued.

The Nigerian Press Council Bill and Nigerian Broadcasting Commission media amendment bills sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives, Odebunmi Olusegun, has been subjected to criticism by the media practitioners and the media associations.

Video: The President @MBuhari administration seeks to amend the NBC Act to control online broadcasting to further shrink not just the civic space but the media space . #SocialMediaBill

“We urge members of the House of Representatives to reject the unlawful bill by Mr Lai Mohammed and the Buhari administration, which seeks to amend the NBC Act to control online broadcasting” ~ @SERAPNigeria

The Social Media Bill has been reintroduced in Nigeria – this time it gives the @nbcgovng powers to approve license for online media platforms in Nigeria including websites . #SocialMediaBill

NBC Amendment Bill Is Social Media Bill Through The Backdoor – If you own an online news website or your'e a blogger read the sections of this amendment currently before the lawmakers in Abuja – We have done a deep-dive into this. #NoToNBCAmendmentBill

The bill, in which the federal government distanced itself has scaled to the public hearing stage. Among other things, the bill prescribes that the Chairman, Board members and the Executive Secretary of the Council shall be appointed by the president through the recommendations of the Minister of Information. The normal practice is for the president to appoint chairmen and board members subject to the approval of the Senate.

If the Bill becomes law, then the Nigerian media industry will effectively become subsidiaries of the Federal Ministry of Information. The Minister and the NPC will have the power to tamper directly with the freedom of the Press.

Some offences will attract heavy fines and offenders will be liable to jail terms, thus effectively criminalising media practice in Nigeria.

Protesting against the bill, the Nigerian Guild of Editors in a statement on June 22 described the content of the amendment as draconian.

According to a criticism by the NGE’s President, Mr. Mustapha Isah and General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, the lawmaker who sponsored the bill was neither a journalist nor a social scientist. The Guild argued that while the sponsors of the bills claimed that the amendments were geared towards moderating the ‘recklessness of the media, the bills are actually criminalising journalism practice in the country.

“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.

“While we are not opposed to an Act that will promote media stakeholders-driven regulatory council, the many draconian provisions in the Odebunmi Olusegun-sponsored bills are actually aimed at criminalising media practice in Nigeria.

“While the intention of the sponsor of the bills is suspicious, the bills negate all known features of media regulatory bodies in the world,’’ the Guild said.

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