16 July 2021 0 Comments

Nigeria’s Media Bill Amendments: Issues &Implications

Author: yinkaolaito

Yinka Olaito is happy,excited and passionate Communications & Media specialist, Trainer and speaker. Yinka Olaito helps Profits and Non-profits with effective communication and positioning for premium service delivery and returns. Yinka Olaito also has special interest in Development Communication and has consulted for noted UN Agencies. Yinka Olaito is the CCO of Michael Sage Consulting(Communication/digital media), African Child Education Right Initiatives(NGO) and Content Director, Africa Development Talk( online Platform for discussion on Policy, Governance, development across Africa) and Africa Foundation for Young Media Professionals

Yinka Olaito on Nigeria's There has been a controversy around the Nigeria’s national Assembly attempt to make spurious changes to the Nigeria Press Council (NPC) and Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) laws. Many of these changes had been viewed as an attempt to curtail freedom of speech and other associated media freedoms.

Prior to now, the federal government through Minister of Information, Alhaji Layi Mohammed, had suspended use of twitter in Nigeria as well as directed all media houses to deactivate their media handles. So on July 14th 2021, I was invited as a guest expert to deliberate on this by the Lagos State Television, Morning Delight programme? DSTV Channel 256.

The focus of our conversation was to look at the implications of such amendments on the media industry. Interestingly few hours before the programme, the national Assembly suspended hearing on this until further notice.

Despite this, my responses were viewed from 3 different perspectives.

The issues: I was of the opinion?there had been unwarranted, unnecessary attention or move to gag the media by this present administration. The present NPC and NBC laws cover every issue which include adequate punishment for erring media organization. For this reason, I strongly believe there is no need for new amendment. Also the portion of the amendments government want to forcefully inject into the section 128 of the NPC law was unnecessary and dictatorial.

While we, in the media industry, do not see any reason why government should not be interested in what happens within the media space, draconian laws will only bring the country back to the dictatorship era in the midst of democracy. The general consensus also is that the new amendments being sought by the federal government empower the regulatory authority to be the judge, accuser in all matters.??

The punishments that are being proposed, which ranges from fine, jail term and revocation of operating licenses are too harsh. Especially, where an individual, the Minister of Information here, can be so powerful to make judgement over an alleged infraction that has not been proven in the law court.

The process: The second angle I focused on was the process of the amendment. The hush-hush tone and speed at which the bills were introduced, rushed and discussed made government and its agencies a suspect with ulterior motive. Many relevant stakeholders: Nigeria Guide of Editors, Nigeria Union of journalist, Newspapers Publishers Association of Nigeria among others were not invited to the public hearing. In readiness to execute these amendments, Government also requested for over N4Billion in a supplementary budget for Nigeria Intelligence Agency to track communications on Whatsapp etc. This amount is considered a huge allocation for frivolous activities while the pandemic of disease, infrastructure decay and other issues which are begging for attention had been ignored. It was not a surprise to see media organizations revolting, organizing a campaign against what was considered an aberration and abuse of power by a supposed democratic government.

The implications: Whatever the government says, it was very clear, from its antecedents, that the government of the day in Nigeria has some skeletons in its cupboard. Many of the changes proposed will hurt media practice and freedom as well as freedom of speech. For a meaningful change, we advocated for dialogue. A meaningful, transparent and honest dialogue which shows government is not going back to the dark days of oppression witnessed majorly during the Military rule in Nigeria.?

If our community members will like to watch the replay of the live programme, click on this. https://youtu.be/IFsn4jWyBvQ

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