A group, #FixPolitics, has flayed the National Assembly for alleged moves to suppress press freedom and democratic voices in the country.
In a statement yesterday by its Co-Chair, Constitutional, Political and Electoral Reforms, Prof. Remi Sonaiya and Executive Director, Anthony Ubani, the group backed the media against undemocratic tendencies.
The statement read in part: “We take our stand firmly alongside the Nigerian press, particularly the Nigerian Guild of Editors, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria and other civil society bodies that have equally expressed consternation at this unacceptable development.”
The body stressed that the two bills sponsored by Olusegun Odebunmi (APC, Oyo State) and being considered by the House of Representatives, were “outright authoritarian and constitute a blatant attempt to stifle free speech and the voice of Nigerian citizens,” as they seek to hand over control of the press to the Ministry of Information.
“This move must be properly understood in the context of a government, which is increasingly intolerant of criticism and divergent opinions and which continues to fail in its primary responsibility of providing security and basic services to the Nigerian populace,” it added.
Meanwhile, recent developments in Nigeria have raised concerns globally about the deteriorating state of press freedom in the country. These include the harassment and arrest of journalists, the ban of Twitter, the closure of media houses and imposition of fines due to spurious allegations.
“The bills being proposed are intended to impose very strict conditions on journalists and media houses seeking to cover government proceedings. For example, journalists’ access to the National Assembly will be restricted, while media houses will have to prove that they have a daily hard copy circulation of 40,000 copies or substantial online presence, with at least 5,000 daily views.
“There are several other restrictions proposed in the bills, with the intention of disqualifying journalists from gaining access to government news and reporting such to Nigerians,” #FixPolitics further stated.
Expressing shock at the draconian bills, the group lauded the outrage expressed by the press as portrayed on the front pages of several independent newspapers across the country on July 12, 2021.
“It is hoped that other media outlets and organisations, both traditional and Internet-based, will join this important movement and resist the gagging of the Nigerian press by the Muhammadu Buhari-led government and an apparent rubber-stamp National Assembly.
“We call on Nigerians everywhere to raise their voices to utterly condemn the further slide of Nigeria into lawlessness, which is the inevitable endpoint of the current strong-arm tactics being deployed by the present administration. Nigeria is already being described as a failed (or failing) state; this move by the National Assembly might well be the final push needed to tip the nation over the precipice,” the group added.