Sunday, 22 July 2018

Nigerian Guild Of Editors Condemns Attempts To Gag Press

The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), yesterday, condemned the bill at the Senate, which seeks to criminalise journalists and journalism practice in Nigeria, saying the move by the Senate is targeted at muzzling the media practioners in the country, which was instrumental to the liberation of Nigeria from colonial clutches and military dictatorship.


The Guild, which took particular note of the Nigerian Press Council Act 1992 (Repeal and Enactment Bill 2018) currently before the Senate, which has passed second reading, wonders why the Senate could bring such a bill to the fore in spite of a subsisting court case on the same subject without minding that it is subjudice.


Condemning the overture, NGE said the bill didn’t stop at seeking to achieving the above endeavour, but also targeted at taking away the powers of the court, and usurp the constitutional duties of academic institutions as well as its regulatory agencies, such as National Universities Commission (NUC) by determining which institution awards acceptable certificates for the practice of journalism in Nigeria.


In a communiqué issued at the end of the NGE’s Standing Committee meeting in Lagos, over the weekend, signed by its President and General Secretary, Mrs. Funke Egbemode and Victoria Ibanga respectively, NGE took a decisive position in condemning the Senate’s moves and swore never to nominate any of its members to serve in such a council, which seeks to cage the media, destroy the profession and criminalise journalists.


The Guild, which perceives the bill as provocative, primitive, anti-people and anti-press freedom at a time when advocacy for free press is gaining stridency across the world, wonders why the supporters of this bill are obsessed on muzzling the press, using draconian laws, which are clearly targeted at making the watchdog toothless. Insisting that Sections 22 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, are clear on the role of the media, it is the opinion of the Guild that the bill should be consigned to the dustbin where it rightly belongs.


“The Guild observes that those behind this bill have been unrelenting in their quest to cage the media under different guises, as the bill has come up under different administrations since 1961, bearing the semblance of the obnoxious Decree 4 of 1984 and Decree 43 of 1988,” the communiqué reads in part.


“The Guild frowns at the attempt by the promoters of the bill to arrogate to the council, the powers to decide which training institutions and professional qualifications attained there from, should be acceptable for journalism practice in Nigeria. This clearly abrogates the mandates of relevant accrediting bodies,” the communiqué continued.


The Guild noted that there is nothing in the bill that shows how the council intends to create an enabling environment for the media to thrive as in the case of other sectors of the economy, rather than maddening at a time the media industry is in dire straits. “The sponsors of this bill are clearly undemocratic and appear to suffer illusion of grandeur.


They seemed to be totally oblivious of the fact that the media houses are businesses set up with investments apart from being the fourth estate of the realm,” the Communiqué added. Recall that Senator, representing Kaduna Central, Sen. Shehu Sani, while condemning the arrest of the Premium Times’ Publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi, and a journalist, Evelyn Okakwu, said the increasing raids and arrests of journalists by security agents points to a nation repulsive and allergic to free press and slowly gravitating towards authoritarianism. “Free press is sacrosanct. Elements in or out of government intolerant to free speech and free press belong to the dark ages of military dictatorship.


Attacks on the media damages the image of a nation and stains the credibility of its Government. The very media that championed our journey to freedom should not be rewarded with chains and shackles. “It’s too early for those on the throne to forget their days in the trenches, when the media held the torch that alighted our path, through the dark and dicey path of struggle for change.”


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