VETERAN Journalist and former Governor of Ogun State Olusegun Osoba has said the proposed Press Council amendment bill initiated by the Nigerian government was worse than the Decree 4 of 1984.
Osoba said this in an interview published by The PUNCH on Thursday.
According to Osoba, the Press Council bill was worse than Decree 4 “because there has never been a law as draconian as the bill, even during the military regimes in the past.”
Osoba, a former Managing Director of Daily Times of Nigeria, argued that Decree 4 only restricted the disclosure of sources of information.
However, he noted that the proposed Press Council amendment bill included provisions that would require Nigerians to obtain a license before operating press organisations.
“Decree 4 was restricted to the disclosure of sources of information. The one they are proposing now includes obtaining a license before you can build a press hub.
“You have to obtain a license. It says before you can even begin printing a newspaper, you must obtain a license. It is far-reaching and sweeping,” Osoba said.
He urged Nigerians to continue resisting attempts to regulate the media, noting that previous attempts were successfully resisted by the people.
Osoba, in the same vein, said he was surprised at Minister of Information Lai Mohammed’s disclosure that the Nigerian government intended to amend the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) laws to enable the agency to regulate the social media.
But he observed that such a regulation would not work unless the government decided to shut down satellite communications and block access to data and WIFI in the country.
“I am surprised because, how do you control a radio station that is based in the United States and broadcasts its content to Nigeria? There are many such radio stations that are not based in Nigeria, unless they want to shut down satellite communications totally or access to WiFi and data.
“I cannot see how it will be easy to implement, especially when you have people outside the country broadcasting TV and radio signals geared towards particular interests and geared towards different interests that we are involved in,” the former governor said.
When asked about fake news and the responsibility of the media, Osoba noted that the spread of false information in the social media was mostly caused by bloggers parading themselves as journalists.
Osoba stressed that the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) must issue conditions for those who wanted to practise as journalists.
According to him, to check the spread of fake news, journalists must take the war to the internet by producing quality news items.
The Decree 4 of 1984 was signed by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari when he ruled the country as a military dictator.
Decree 4 gave the military regime powers to shut down newspapers and radio and television stations deemed detrimental to its interest.
Relying on Decree 4, the regime jailed journalists for writing and publishing stories that embarrassed the government.
A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) comprising Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), International Press Centre (IPC) and the Centre for Media Law and Advocacy in a joint memorandum, has said some clauses in the Press Council Bill posed dangers to the freedom of the press.
The Executive Director of IPC Lanre Arogundade, on behalf of the group, said Section Three of the proposed bill would make the media a department of the Federal Ministry of Information.
“A professional code of professional conduct for the media should never be subject of the approval of the ministry or any other political authority,” the CSOs said.