The presidency has finally spoken on a bill that journalists and media advocates say could gag press freedom if passed into law. The Senate pushed the controversial Nigerian Press Council Amendment Bill through second reading earlier this year, eliciting widespread outrage from media practitioners who immediately identified it as an attempt to revive some of the relics of dictatorship that freedom lovers thought modernisation and democracy had consigned to the dustbin of history.
“The proposed bill is unconstitutional as it runs against the principles and tenets of the rule of law and is actually subjudice given that a case on the subject matter is still pending in the highest court of the land – the Supreme Court – in view of which the bill should not have been drafted in the first instance,” the journalists and media advocates said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES last month.
However, the presidency in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES dissociated President Muhammadu Buhari from the pill saying it is a “privately-sponsored bill.”
Read the full statement by the presidency below. Nigerian groups or individuals that have objections to the Nigerian Press Council Amendment Bill have been told to follow due process rather than throw mud at the government using the media. Speaking to State House correspondents on the controversy surrounding the proposed amendment of the law sponsored as a Private Member’s Bill, a presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, pointed out that all the attacks against the government as a result of the bill were misdirected, since it has nothing at all to do with the Executive.
“This is a privately-sponsored bill. President Muhammadu Buhari is not involved,” Mr Shehu said. He added that there is a process to be followed when people oppose a bill that is being considered by the Legislature, and encouraged anyone against the proposed bill to do so. “President Buhari should not be blamed for the actions of the legislators whom we voted to represent us in the National Assembly.
“At the same time, the Presidency would like to assure everyone that, however the process ends, President Buhari will not compromise his impeccable and untainted democratic credentials by signing into law, any bill that violates the letter or the spirit of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Garba Shehu said. Premium Times
Pix shows gagging of the Press