July 14, 2021.
DELTA ONLINE PUBLISHERS FORUM (DOPF) CALLS ON NATIONAL ASSEMBLY TO QUASH OBNOXIOUS NBC, NPC AMENDMENT BILLS
The importance of free and unshackled media has been universally acclaimed as the bastion of freedom of expression and human rights in the strengthening of democracy. The point has also been made that this freedom is neither the prerogative of the politician nor the privilege of the journalist.
Yet in the exercise of performing their daily work of gathering and transmitting news, journalists are merely exercising every citizen’s right to free speech.
While the Delta Online Publishers’ Forum (DOPF) appreciate and thank the House of Representative for the step taken so far in withdrawing the vexatious media bill, for further consultation following the outcry that greeted the bill from the media community and civil society groups, we want to appeal to their conscience that they should channel their energy to more productive ventures.
It is against this background that the DOPF views the proposed amendments to the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Acts that was before the National Assembly as obnoxious instruments by power mongers of Nigeria’s political elites to badger and shackle the press and undermine the people’s right to speak and make their opinions known on issues.
We demand therefore that the so-called amendments should be jettisoned by the National Assembly as the offensive sections are diabolical to the growth and sustenance of our hard-fought and won democracy which is currently under assault by anti-democratic forces with eyes on leading the nation into totalitarianism.
Our demand is hinged on the obvious fact that the amendments seek to arrogate all media powers and control to the Minister of Information and pseudo-agencies of the Federal Government.
Accordingly, we reject the disguised evil intent of the proponents of the amendment bill and their sponsors who are hiding in the background to nullify media independence by making the media subject to the control of the whim and caprice of presidential control.
The evil intent of the proponents of the despicable bill is its deadly pretence not to acknowledge the importance of press freedom as the foundation of many other human rights covering freedom of speech, freedom of the press, which gives individuals and communities the right to articulate their opinions without fear of retaliation, censorship or punishment.
It pretends not to know that a free press helps to inform the people in print, online, or on TV or radio, thus underscoring the point that knowledge is power.
It also pretends not to know that it is through a free exchange of information that people can be fully aware of what’s going on around them, and so can meaningfully participate in their communities or democracies.
Therefore, in rejecting the obnoxious amendments we call attention to the fact that local and national reporters, bloggers and news outlets keep people informed about what is happening in the world around them, and that freedom of expression allows people to access information about current events and matters of public interest – whether that’s from large media companies, local newspapers, or each other through citizen journalism and social media.
We therefore call on the National Assembly members to stand up and protect media independence by jettisoning the clauses that seek to criminalise functions of the journalist and undermine Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which Nigeria is a signatory.
We demand that the media sector regulation must not be subjected to the influence and control of politicians working for the government of the day.
Thus, the proposed amendment must be discarded and thrown overboard because it is to undermine the people’s inalienable right to drive home a legitimate point of view, and so express their feelings against injustice and unfair treatment. It is a sinister move to criminalise the people’s right to free speech.
We call on members of the National Assembly to recognize the place of the media as the Fourth Estate of the Realm in a democracy and honour it. They must see the proponents of the very offensive bill as an unpleasant bill for who they are: Anti-people.