The Standing Committee discussed the state of the nation and the media and took particular note of the Nigerian Press Council Act 1992 (Repeal and Enactment Bill 2018) which is currently before the Senate and has passed second reading.
The Nigerian Guild of Editors vehemently condemns the bill which seeks to criminalise journalists and journalism practice, takes away the power of the law courts and usurps the constitutional duties of academic institutions and regulatory agencies such as the National Universities Commission (NUC).
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. This bill bears the semblance of the obnoxious Decree 4 of 1984 and Decree 43 of 1993.
The Guild is piqued that 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 sub-judice.
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 Guild wonders why the sponsors of this bill are fixated on muzzling the press using draconian laws which are clearly targeted at making the watchdog toothless. Sections 22 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, are clear on the role of the media.
The Guild perceives this bill as provocative, primitive, anti-people and anti-press freedom at a time when advocacy for free press is gaining stridency across the world.
It is noteworthy that there is nothing in this bill that shows how the council intends to create an enabling environment for the media to thrive as it is the case in other sectors of the economy. This is particularly galling 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 Guild condemns the bill in its entirety and will never nominate any of its members to serve in a council that seeks to cage the media, destroy the profession and criminalise journalists.
Indeed, it is the opinion of the Guild that this bill should be consigned to the dustbin where it rightly belongs.