Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) an umbrella body comprising the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has kicked against the ongoing amendment to the Nigerian Press Council Act of 2004 by the House of Representatives.
While stating its position on the bill before the House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, representatives of the NPO led by Mr Azubuike Ishiekwene, noted that most of the clauses being considered in the amendment were subject of litigation in a case currently before the Supreme Court.
The NPO, therefore, described the proposed amendment as prejudicial, urging the House to step down the amendment pending the determination of the case before the apex court.
According to Ishiekwene, media stakeholders canvassed the same position before the Senate in 2018, when the 8th Senate proposed a similar amendment.
“There is a pending matter between the NPAN and some parties involved in this bill that is being amended, and as stewards of the law, I am sure you are constrained, just as I am to make any further conversation on this matter because it is a matter pending at the Supreme Court.
“It is a matter that has been pending since 1999 when it came up the last time in 2010, 17 out of the 39 clauses that you are considering were ruled unconstitutional by the court at that time. The federal government has appealed the judgment, we won the appeal and the federal government has appealed to the Supreme Court,” he said.
He added, “I will rest my case by appealing to the honorable members of this committee to refer to the conversation on a similar 2018 when this matter came up before the Senate and the pendency of this matter before the court was canvassed and the 8th National Assembly agreed that the prudent thing to do was to step it down. I urge this House to also consider this similar step,” Ishiekwene concluded.
But chairman of the committee, Hon Segun Odebunmi insisted that the National Assembly reserves the right to amend the law when necessary, adding that the amendment had nothing to do with the court case.
“To the best of my knowledge, constitutionally, we are doing our job, and I am very sure that no court will restrain us from doing the job. We are not stopping any process in the court, but we have the right, the mandate of Nigerians to amend Nigeria’s law and that is what we are doing, it is not about any case in the court, it is an Act of the National Assembly and we deemed it fit to amend it, so, it doesn’t stop you from pursuing your case in the court, but this is the position of the National Assembly,” Odebunmi said.
Meanwhile, the executive director, International Press Centre (IPC), Mr Lanre Arogundade has urged the National Assembly to expunge provisions of the legislation that could stampede the media in the country.
Arogundade presented the position of IPC, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Centre for Media Law and Advocacy (CMLA), and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) at the public hearing.
He opposed the proposed amendment in section 3 (functions of the Council) which seeks to empower the minister of Information to establish and disseminate a national press code and standards to guide the conduct of print media, related media houses and media practitioners.
“The attempt to subject the entire media sector to the control of the minister is further reinforced by Section 9 (Code of Conduct) which further provides in 9(1) that: ‘The Council shall establish a national press and ethical code for media houses and media practitioners, which shall come into effect and be disseminated after the approval by the minister’.
“A professional code of conduct for the media should never be subject to the approval of the minister or any other political authority,” he warned.
Step Down Amendment Of Media Law, NPO Tells N’Assembly(Opens in a new browser tab)