Written by Emmanuel Ogbeche

Press Council Bill relic of Decree 4 – NPO

The Nigerian Press Organisation, NPO, has described the Nigerian Press Council Bill 2018 as relic of Decree No. 4, unconstitutional as it runs against the principles and tenets of the rule of law.

The NPO, which comprises of Newspaper Proprietors' Association of Nigeria, NPAN, Nigeria Guild of Editors and Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, at a meeting in Lagos last Thursday, on “The Nigerian Press Council Bill 2018,” also observed that further hearing on the bill was sub-judice given that a case on the subject matter is still pending in the Supreme Court.

In a communique signed by Nduka Obaigbena, Funke Egbemode, and Waheed Odusile, for the NPAN, NGE and NUJ, respectively, they stressed that 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, both vestiges of the dark days of military rule and therefore incurably and irreparably bad, being also inconsistent with values of our democratic society.”

According to them, the bill seeks to criminalize journalism practise despite the fact the laws of the country already have enough provisions and avenues for seeking legal redress.

“The bill smacks of an attempt at undue interference in the operations of the media in Nigeria as businesses registered under the relevant laws of the federation.

“The bill seeks for a The Nigeria Press Council to usurp the powers of the courts by assuming extra-judicial powers.

“The bill seeks to incapacitate the media in the exercise of the duties and obligations imposed on it by section 22 of the constitution to monitor governance and hold government accountable to the people. The section states as follows: “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people”, a communique after the meeting stated.

The stakeholders called on the National Assembly to drop the bill “forthwith until the determination of a similar case in the Supreme Court of Nigeria,” while urging the “Senate should borrow from best practices in other jurisdictions that has expressly provided for and guaranteed press freedom without any form of government interference.”

However, the bodies promised that the media will continue doing all it can to further promote media ethics, professionalism, transparency,  accountability and self-regulation, to ensure that the public interest is served at all times.

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