Media group condemns govt plan to restrict media freedom in Kano

THE Media Rights Agenda (MRA) on Thursday condemned plans by the Kano State government to establish a committee to address alleged professional misconduct, describing it as a ploy to constrain media freedom in the state.

The Kano State government had announced at a media briefing that a committee to address professional misconduct and abuse of privileges in the state was approved by the State Executive Council after its meeting.

Ayode Longe, the MRA’s Programme Director in a statement, signed by Idowu Adewale, Communications Officer said such a process will hinder the constitutional rights of media activities in the state.

“It would be incongruous and clearly unacceptable for the Kano State Government to arrogate to itself the power, right or authority to oversee how the media perform this constitutional duty conferred on it by Section 22 of the Constitution and, in particular, to determine whether media professionals are misconducting themselves in this regard and abusing their privileges, assuming that any such privilege exists,” the statement read.

He called on the state government to discontinue its move to establish a committee addressing alleged professional misconduct and abuse privilege by media organisations in the state.

Such initiative by the Kano government, according to Longe, violates regional and international norms and standards on media freedom and freedom of expression which are binding on Nigeria.

Drawing on section 22 of the constitution, which affirms all mass media agencies, uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people, Longe said the move is illegal.

Arguing that government officials are at the receiving end of unfavourable critical reports, Longe said, “There is a high degree of likelihood that it will also be looking for ways of either controlling such critical media or hitting back at journalists or media establishments”.

He said the MRA is not convinced on the intentions of the government, especially with the “widespread perception in the state that the move is motivated by a desire to punish media organisations” that have upheld the operational tenants of the mass media, having sought to report the perspectives of the oppositions and other critical voices in the state.

Longe insisted that such a process presents an opportunity for the government to exercise controls over independent and critical media.

He said the process would also affect the duties of journalists and media establishments saddled with the responsibility of government accountability to the people, at the mercy of the Government.






     

     

    Adding that the step being taken violates Section 39 of the constitution, Longe said it would also hinder the rights of journalists and the media in the State to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.

    Therefore, he called on the government to shelve its plans to set up a media regulatory body, as even the existence of the committee will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the State.

    He said where media organisations or media professionals can be shown to have breached established professional codes of ethics and standards for the media or to have violated applicable laws the government and other stakeholders should have recourse to existing laws and mechanisms in seeking redress and by so doing, strengthen those processes.

    It would be recalled that in 2019, the ninth Assembly had proposed the establishment of an anti-social media bill including a bill to prohibit hate speech in Nigeria. Both bills according to the Senate would regulate media excesses in the country as well as curtail the spread of hate speech and fake news on social media.

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