The International Press Center criticized the government for trying to criminalize journalism in the country and urged media professionals to fight back before it is too late. The executive director of the center, Lanre Arogundade, pointed out that there are two important bills before the National Assembly that may weaken press freedom in Nigeria.
The amendment to the NBC bill was initiated by Odebunmi Olusegun (APC, Chairman of the Oyo State Committee on Information, National Direction, Ethics and Values and the House of Representatives) and Unyime Idem (PDP, Akwa State Vice President Ibom). and the Vice Chair of the House Communications Committee); Started by odebunmi olusegun.
Arogundade, who spoke to The PUNCH on Sunday on the telephone, said if the media refused to act on time and the amendments scaled through, media houses could become an appendage of the Federal Ministry of Information.
He said, “We have discovered that some of the amendments being proposed in the two bills are major threats to press freedom should they be passed into law. We are saying this because there is an attempt to criminalise journalism. The penalties for the alleged breach of the codes in the NBC and NPC acts are highhanded and heavy, sometimes up to N10m in the case of the NPC Act and even imprisonment for three years for any form of alleged violations.
In the case of the NBC Act, there is a provision that the NBC can sanction a station, including fine or revocation of licence, if in the opinion of the NBC, it is in public interest. You now begin to wonder how a proposed law would give power of determining public interest to an unelected body.”
The NPC Act is so ridiculous that the proposed amendment is saying that a National Press Code shall be drawn up and the code will come into effect only with the approval of the Minister of Information. So, they are saying in effect that all newspapers are a department of the Ministry of Information,” he added.