The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Information National Orientation Ethics and Values, Mr Segun Dokun Odebunmi, has said the intention behind the Nigerian Press Council Amendment Bill is to remove “the identified and existing hindrances and bottlenecks standing in the way of optimum performance of the NPC.”
Odebunmi, who represents Ogo Oluwa/ Surulere Federal Constituency, told journalists that the bill was initiated with “an independent mind and a view to making the council be in tune with current realities in the media industry” and added that “this without infringing on the freedom of expression, as well as the unhindered flow of information among Nigerians.”
Odebunmi, who was reacting to the public outcry the bill has generated, said the call for the establishment of press code was “to protect and guide the council to checkmate and reduce quackery and merchants fake news as well as promoters of hate speech” which he said was already affecting media practice in Nigeria.
According to the All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, the bill is not controversial and that those reacting to the bill with little or no insight into what the bill entails were causing confusion.
He said: “Specifically, the bill in section 2 attempts to amend the existing section by substituting section 2 for a new section 2 by separating the council from the board to the council, where the council will be headed by the executive secretary and will be responsible for the day to day administration of the council.
“The board to the Council which will comprise representatives from all stakeholders, including the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Guild of Editors, Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigerian (NPAN), members of the public etc, will be represented and serve as a Board.
This is applicable in a sister agency like the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). In essence, the two important bodies will exist simultaneously and in their respective capacities.
“Furthermore, the increase in fine and penalties for persons/individuals or body corporate(s) that violate any of the provisions of the laws are mere upgrading as these fines are already in the existing Press Council Act. They were only raised to reflect the current situation.
“A deep study of the bill shows that there is nowhere the bill removed, modified or tampered with any section or sub-section of the existing Press Council Act where Media Freedom and that of expression is provided.”
He said the best way to have an objective analysis on the document is to, first of all, understand where the intent originates and where it intends to go.