Speaking on the suspension of Twitter and the attempts to introduce tough media regulations, a former Governor of Ogun State and ex-Managing Director of Daily Times Newspaper, Chief Olusegun Osoba has said that the Press Council Bill is worse that Decree 4.
Responding to a question on the proposed amendment to the Nigeria Press Council Act such that journalist and media houses can be fined N250,000 and N10m respectively, the former governor said it is a terrible draconian law. He further stated that it has never happened in the history of Nigeria that a law as sweeping as this will be proposed.
According to him, Decree 4 was restricted to the disclosure of sources of information. He said, “The one they are proposing now includes obtaining a licence before you can build a press hub. You have to obtain a licence. It says before you can even begin printing a newspaper, you must obtain a licence. It is far-reaching and sweeping.”
Chief Osoba further stated that press freedom is never awarded. He said, “Over the years, we have always fought for the right to practice. We have been fighting the press council issue for over 25 years. I remember what led to the Nigerian Press Organisation and the production of a code of conduct for journalists. It was because attempts were made in the 1970s to set up a regulatory body for the print media. We resisted it and we have to continue resisting it.”
The former governor urged the media to continue to insist on their rights. He cited what is happening at the moment in Hong Kong, where the government there is attacking the media and some newspapers are being harassed as an example. He also mentioned the case where government in Belarus hijacked in which a journalist was traveling and stressed the need for journalists to be united and continue to resist and be responsible.
Chief Osoba commended the Nigerian press for being highly responsible over the years. “We’ve been taking the interest of the nation as our own interest too. And part of our duty is to act as a watchdog not only on the government, but on both private and public institutions,” he said.
He also stated categorically that “This will not be the beginning or the end of measures by different governments to want to contain and control the media. We will be the ones to continue to resist such. I have been in detention many times in the past all because of the news I wrote. None of my stories have ever been denied, but governments all over the world will want to hide under security threats to do what they do. We are the ones that must continue to show that what we are doing is helping the nation and making sure that there is restraint on the part of those in authority.”
The ex-Managing Director of Daily Times admitted that about 90 per cent of the bloggers are not journalists and are fake in character themselves. He wondered how someone that is fake in character will not be engaged in fake news.
Commenting on the statement attributed to the Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that the National Broadcasting Commission Act should be amended such that the NBC would be able to regulate online media, Chief Osoba expressed surprise saying: “How do you control a radio station that is based in the United States and broadcasts its content to Nigeria?”
He said, “There are many radio stations that are not based in Nigeria, unless they want to shut down satellite communications totally or access to Wi-Fi 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.”