Media practitioners in the country have been urged to get ready to defy any anti-press laws the Nigerian authority may enact. In a statement on Thursday, Nigeria’s pioneer media rights group, Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER established in 1996) said journalists in Nigeria are used to anti-media laws and that such have always been historically defied by journalists.

JODER said the proposed bill to regulate the media will create a one-dimensional society where the government will only listen to itself leaving the citizens to resort to unconventional means to express themselves adding that suppression of public opinion is a violent assault on the people.

In a statement signed by the group’s Executive Director, Mr Adewale Adeoye JODER urged Nigerians to continue to press hard against the plot by the Presidency to muzzle the press but added “If we cannot stop the draconian laws, the tradition has always been to defy them. Rebellion against unjust laws is the duty of journalists,” Adeoye said.

The group said the Nigerian Press Council Act and the National Broadcasting Commission Act violate the principles of democracy one of which is free speech without which Nigerian leaders cannot lay claim to representing the people that elected them.

‘Infringement on the right of expression is corruption of the worst variant. It is not only against the media, it is against the people. It is against the business and political class. It is against the masses. It is against the expectations of the local and international community. It takes away the freedom of the electorates to express themselves and their right to question those elected to represent them’ JODER said.

The group said Nigeria is witnessing the emergence of dictatorship and a clear descent into anarchy. ‘We are seeing disdain for the right of Nigerians to hold opinions contrary to the opinions of those in power. This has no place in representative government.’

JODER said the proposed bill empowers the NPC to suspend a journalist meaning that the NPC is to keep a ledger on the stories published by the media and employ the sledgehammer when interests of public officers are perceived to be threatened whereas most of the time, the interests of the people and public officials many of who are corrupt are not the same.

‘Since 1859, when the first newspaper was published in Nigeria, journalists have fought hard and courageously to defeat anti-media laws. On this course, many have been either killed or disappeared. At each junction, the media have always won the battles. When the military came up with Decrees 4 and others that muzzle the press, the response was to defy the draconian laws. It is almost certain that history is about to repeat itself’

JODER said the proposed bill is an attempt to reverse the gains of democracy since 1999 and to bring back a culture of anomie and siege on the society.

JODER said the proposed bill negates Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and a reversal of the 1991 Windhoek Declaration by African journalists while it represents a retrogressive policy that reduces the democratic status of Nigeria in Africa.

Adewale Adeoye


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