Media Gag: Avoid monster that’ll consume us all, Shehu Sani, Ogun warn NASS.

He says that it is a misplacement of priorities for the Buhari regime to continually pursue regulation of the online media.

By: AYOOLA BABALOLA•

Ahmad Lawan, Shehu Sani, Festus Ogun, and Femi Femi Gbajabiamila

Ahmad Lawan, Shehu Sani, Festus Ogun, and Femi Femi Gbajabiamila

Senator Shehu Sani has warned the Senator Ahmad Lawan-led National Assembly against sustaining the anti-democracy rhetoric of the Buhari regime.

Mr Sani, former lawmaker and a rights activist, in a statement released on Friday, asked the National Assembly not to engage in actions that could further harm Nigeria’s dwindling democracy.

He was reacting on the back of the Buhari regime’s proposal to cause the parliament to grant more power to government’s regulatory bodies covering the press and broadcasting stations.

The House of Representatives is currently working to amend the governing laws of the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NPC).

Mr Sani said the government’s proposal could lead to “introducing seeds of tyranny.”

Amendments that limit the mass media’s capacity to protect the country’s freedom, democracy, and hold those in power accountable, according to Mr Sani, are harmful to Nigeria’s future and political stability. 

”Any amendment that incapacitate or hinder or inhibit the ability or the capacity of the media to defend our freedom and democracy and hold power to account will be suicidal to our country’s political stability and future,” Mr Sani said. 

The Buhari regime had through the Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed sought to amend the NBC Act which proposes amongst other things, that the NBC be empowered to regulate all online broadcasting entities in Nigeria and compel them to act under the control of the Nigerian government. 

 

Under the current NBC Act, the Buhari regime already exercises stiff control on broadcast stations, issuing stifling broadcast codes and compelling media houses to quit broadcasting programs it finds objectionable and imposing penalties on perceived defaulters at will. 

The NBC Act has been criticised by rights activists and it is currently being challenged at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court by human rights lawyer Inibehe Effiong who is seeking redress against the highhandedness of the Minister for Information and Culture on imposing fines on broadcast stations on very vague terms. 

In the same vein, the government is seeking to re-enact the Nigerian Press Council Act (NPC). 

On Thursday, the house of representatives committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics, and Values held a public hearing on the measure.

The bill has subsequently been heavily criticised by the Nigerian Press Organisation, the umbrella body for the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).

The Organisation says several parts of the Act have been subject to litigation since 1999, asking the Reps to drop the bill.

Mr Sani further condemned this action reiterating that the National Assembly must not be used as a tool of dictatorship or to erode the right to freedom of speech and of free press. 

He also urged the National Assembly to discard proposed amendments that empower the fascist antecedents of the Buhari regime. 

 

”The national assembly must not be used as middlemen of autocracy. The gavel must not be used to suffocate the right to freedom of speech and of the press.”

When you censor and incapacitate the media, you have extinguished the light that beams on the dark and cruel areas of power. The NASS should throw away any amendments of laws that will erect the pillars of fascism in our country,” he added. 

Speaking on this development to Peoples Gazette, legal analyst, Festus Ogun, argued that the federal government’s desperate attempt to gag the constitutionally guaranteed right to free and access to information is needless and malicious. 

”The right to the internet and access to digital information are human rights that cannot be arbitrarily derogated without reasonable lawful justification; therefore, the continuous desperate attempt to regulate the social and online media by the Nigerian government is ill-conceived, malicious and needless,” Mr Ogun argued. 

Mr Ogun further argued that the online community is already self-regulated with several features that allow you to report posts that violate terms of use, expression of hate or descrimination of any kind. 

He says that it is a misplacement of priorities for the Buhari regime to continually pursue regulation of the online media. 

”The current leadership of our country lacks the legal, constitutional and moral right to make delicate policies that are capable of endangering basic human rights and democratic liberties. 

“A serious government would focus more on security, poverty, job creation, infrastructure and getting our economy out of the woods; not trying to gag the media through undemocratic policies.” Mr Ogun added. 

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