Tuesday, July 31, 2018 5.00PM / Proshare WebTV
The recently proposed Nigerian Press Council Bill by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has generated a lot of debate across the country, considering the role of the press as the watchdog of the government and the mirror of the society.
From the one-day public hearing between the Senate Committee on Media & Publicity and Media stakeholder/ practitioners it is clear that the bill is not receiving wider acceptance and endorsement.
Across the globe one of the major talking points is the regulation of the media industry, which has come with resistance as it is viewed as an attempt to crush opinions, views and perspectives to government policies or corporate actions.
In this article we outline 5 key things to note about the Nigerian Press Bill 2018;
A Regulatory Process
The Bill seeks to regulate journalism practice by establishing a statutory body to arbitrate between the media and members of the public. This is opposed to the insistence of media practitioners that self- regulation subject to the existing laws of the land is the best guarantee for media freedom in a democratic society.
In the United Kingdom there are two regulatory bodies who are guided by the Royal Charter namely the Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO) and IMPRESS the press regulator recognized by Press Recognition Panel in the country.
Norway has its Media Authority that mediates in cases were press freedom and media neutrality are threatened in the country.
For the United States of America there is nothing like regulation of the media, the only role of the Federal Communication Commission is to wade into instances were broadcasting provisions are violated.
Professionalism in the Media
The bill seeks to promote high professional standards for the Nigerian press and deal with complaints emanating both from members of the public about the conducts of practitioners in the system as well as complaints from the press about the conducts of persons or organisations towards the press in Nigeria.
Autonomy of the Press
The leadership of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are of the strong view that the passage of the Nigerian Press Council Bill 2018, will strengthen the media and guarantee their autonomy.
This will be through an institutional framework that allows media practitioners to self-regulate and ensure the enforcement of codes and standards for all journalists.
Expunges Perceived Draconian Provisions of Extant
The bill which is established to repeal the Nigerian Press Council Act of 1992, according to the Senate leadership expunges draconian laws and has made amendments to fit into the contemporary developments in the media landscape.
In the wake of the increasing trends of fake news circulation and how critical the media is in shaping narratives, the establishment of a Nigerian Press Council is justified.
Position of the Nigerian Media Stakeholders
As the NPC 2018 Bill passes second reading, the Nigerian media community comprising the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Press Orgainsation (NPO), the Newspaper Proprietor Association of Nigeria, NPAN, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, and the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria, BON have all opposed the bill.
They have outlined several issues with the bill which include;
1. The Bill is sub judice as a suit instituted by media interest groups against it is still pending at the Supreme Court.
2. The Bill appears to be a subtle crossbreed of the obnoxious military decrees: the Public Officers [protection Against False Information] Decree No.4 of 1984 enacted under then Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, and the Newspapers Registration Decree No.43 of 1993. Incidentally, the former military ruler is now the elected President.
3. The proposed bill is unconstitutional as it runs against the principles and tenets of the rule of law
4. The Bill seeks to criminalise journalism practice despite the fact that the laws of the country already have enough provisions and avenues for seeking legal redress.
5. 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.
6. The bill seeks for the Nigeria Press Council to usurp the powers of the courts by assuming extra-judicial powers.
7. The NPC bill brings undue interference in the operations of the media in Nigeria as businesses registered under the relevant laws of the federation.