The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur, Mr. David Kaye, to publicly call on the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the entire leadership of the Senate to immediately withdraw the contentious Press Council Bill.
The bill, aimed to undermine constitutionally and internationally-recognised media freedom in Nigeria, has passed the second reading at the Seanate despite subsisting court case and strong opposition to it.
SERAP in the petition dated July 27, 2018 and signed by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, said: “Criminalising media freedom would not only violate the rights of journalists and media practitioners to carry out their legitimate work but undermine the ability of Nigerians and others in the country to be informed on events of critical importance and participate in the governance process.
“The bill would escalate the growing threats and attacks on the right to freedom of expression and media freedom and have a powerful chilling effect across the country.“The proposed bill by the Senate is a major threat to media independence and diversity in the country and shows lack of understanding of the essential role of independent media in the sustainability of the country’s democratic dispensation. “SERAP believes that a free and independent media would facilitate public participation, governmental accountability and improve democratic institutions.”
The petition, copied to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, added: “The bill by the Senate also stems in part from increasingly irresponsible framing of journalists as ‘enemies’ by political leaders and aims at stifling public debate of issues such as allegations of corruption in the Senate and investigative reporting in the public interest.
“The bill would also restrict the free flow of information and ideas, which is one of the most powerful ways of combating corruption and holding public officials, including lawmakers, accountable.“Despite strong opposition from media practitioners to the bill, the Senate of Nigeria is pushing hard to accelerate the passage of this obnoxious bill, which has already passed the second reading. SERAP is concerned that if passed into law, the bill would contravene Nigeria’s international legal obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention Against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.“SERAP is seriously concerned that the leadership of the Senate is pushing to pass an anti-media bill.”
“The bill reproduced some of the most repressive provisions of similar obvious laws known as the Newspapers Registration Decree 43 of 1993 and the Public Officers Protection Against False Accusation Decree 4 of 1984. The then military government used Decree 4 to jail journalists. The bill seeks to establish the Nigeria Press Council to usurp the powers of the courts by assuming extra-judicial powers.”