Nigerian Newspapers Advertorial Against Bills To Regulate Media Industry Photo: BBC Pidgin

‘Information Blackout’: Nigerian newspapers oppose proposed media bills in NASS

*The press freedom is where we stand, and it is part of the Legislative agenda of the Ninth (National) Assembly because we see the media not just as a tool for dissemination of information but as a tool for nation-building ─House of Representatives Spokesman

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

Currently at the public hearing stage in the Federal Legislature, several Nigerian newspapers have published an advertorial against the proposed media regulation bills being considered in the country’s National Assembly (NASS), in Abuja, FCT.

ConsumerConnect reports the advertorial, which appeared Monday, July 12, 2021, on the front pages of dailies, such as Punch, Vanguard, The Nation, ThisDay, Guardian, Daily Sun, was sponsored by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN).

Bearing a bold headline titled, ‘Information Blackout’, the advertorial stated that the NPC and NBC (Media) Act amendment bills being considered by Federal lawmakers are aimed at trampling upon the right of citizens to information in the country.

Nigerian House of Representatives in session

The advertorial said: “It’s not just against the media…. It is about society’s right to know, your right to be heard.”

Hon. Olusegun Odebunmi, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, had sponsored the bills, which are already at the public hearing stage in NASS.

However, in his reaction to the development, Mr. Femi Falana, human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), described the bills as “anti-media”, according to report.

Debate on the bill reportedly comes as the Federal Government intensifies efforts at tightening regulation on the social media after suspending Twitter services over what are called national security concerns.

However, Hon. Odebunmi, who introduced the bill to amend the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) Act has said that it is not designed to gag the media in the country.

Vanguard had reported the legislator recently stated: “Most of the people commenting on the bill have no knowledge of it.

“The bill was not sponsored by Federal Government, even the Minister of Information was only aware a few days to presentation, and he did not have any input on the bill.

“It is my idea because I feel we should not wait for a Supreme Court judgment to do what is right by amending the existing controversial law.”

‘We stand by press freedom,’ says House of Representatives

In order to allay any fears of an attempt to muzzle  the press in Nigeria, the House of Representatives has weighed in on the proposed Press Council Bill, as the Lower House said that no attempt would be made by the lawmakers to gag the media in the country.

Benjamin Kalu, Spokesman of the House, who denied rumours that the Legislature wants to suppress the press, reportedly clarified in an interview on Channels TV, that the media is not just a tool for disseminating information but a tool for nation-building.

The lawmaker said: “If the press is gagged, then we are finished.

“We are legislators today from the ruling party; tomorrow we may be in the opposition. Next tomorrow, we may not be politicians, we may be out there.

He explained that the “House has taken a position and that position of the House is that no attempt will be made by the House to gag the press.

“The press freedom is where we stand, and it is part of the legislative agenda of the Ninth Assembly because we see the media not just as a tool for dissemination of information but as a tool for nation-building.”

It was gathered Odebunmi’s remarks came hours after several Nigerian Newspapers Monday published an advertorial against media regulations bills being considered in the National Assembly.

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