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Nigerian Guild of Editors, Ekiti govt slam Senate's anti-freedom bill

By The Rainbow
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The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) wants an immediate suspension of the

“FRIVOLOUS
PETITIONS (PROHIBITIONS ETC) BILL, 2015.”
The Guild believes that the immediate and overall objective of the bill is to deny Nigerians, especially the media, freedom of expression, which the people so much cherish.

Ekiti State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Owoseni

Ajayi has expressed concern over the Anti-Media Bill proposed by All

Progressives Congress’s  Senator, Bala Ibn Na’allah.

In a statement on Sunday signed by Garba Deen Muhamma, the Guild said,  The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) demands, unconditionally, that the Senate of the Federal

Republic of Nigeria suspends all proceedings with respect to a proposed Bill, “FRIVOLOUS

PETITIONS (PROHIBITIONS ETC) BILL, 2015.”
“The broad objective of this curiously accelerated Bill is to outlaw the freedom of expression of

all Nigerian citizens and freedom of speech of all media organizations operating in print,

electronic and on-line platforms in Nigeria and beyond. Appallingly, the Bill has also included as

its target very personal and private means of communication such as SMS or text messages and

WhatsApp, among others.
“The freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed in section 22 and 39(1) of the 1999 Nigerian

constitution respectively. Therefore, to enact any kind of law under any guise that will contradict

these fundamental provisions is to deliberately seek to undermine the Constitution of the Federal

Republic of Nigeria.
“We are, therefore, concerned that a group of persons elected by Nigerians to ensure that their

rights, privileges and interests are protected, should gleefully misuse the mandate given to them

to the detriment of the same people that elected them.

“As other concerned individuals and groups have pointed out, the Senate should note that thereare already existing laws in our Constitution that can accommodate all the concerns, real or

imagined, that the proposed Bill is expected to address. These laws include the Cyber Crime

(Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act 2015, the Libel law etc.

“In view of this and the glaring danger posed by the proposed Bill, the NGE is strongly advising

the Senate to drop all proceedings on the proposed Bill and turn its attention instead to critical

areas in need of urgent intervention.
“While believing that members of the Senate have a right both individually and collectively to

express their concerns about the abuse of the cyberspace by unscrupulous people and

organizations, we advise them to consolidate or strengthen the existing laws and enforce

implementation.””We call on all Nigerians that are justifiably peeved by the very consideration of enacting such

obnoxious law to remain calm and express their opposition through lawful means.

“However, we frown at on-line fraudsters who take advantage of the vulnerable cyber space to

carry out cyber bullying, stealing, stalking and all manner of cybercrimes.”

The Ekiti attorney general on his part advised the National Assembly must not allow itself to be used to bring back

Decree 4 that was used against the press between 1984 and 1985 that

President Mohammadu Buhari was military Head of State and the Sedition

Law that the British Colonial Masters used against our fathers, who

fought for the independence of Nigeria.The Attorney-General, who declared that holders of public offices must

be answerable to the people at all times, added that; “those of us

holding public offices must be mindful of the temptation of seeing

ourselves as being above the people. We are not God that cannot be

questioned. In fact, nothing should be private about us that the

public must not know.”
In a statement issued in Ado-Ekiti on Sunday, Owoseni Ajayi, who said

the Ekiti State government was against the bill in its entirety, noted

“that bill proposed by Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah is not

different from Buhari's Protection Against False Accusations Decree 4

of 1984, which was considered as the most repressive press law ever

enacted in Nigeria.”
He said Nigerians were not unmindful of the fact that the APC rode to

power on the back of free press and credible electoral process that

was allowed by the Peoples Democratic Government of Dr Goodluck

Jonathan, adding that; “the APC as a party must be ready to

accommodate even more than the media attacks it gave PDP when it was

in the opposition.”
The Commissioner for Justice said; “Isn't it funny that the same

media, especially the social media that the APC used against the PDP

has now become an enemy that the APC led federal government is

desperate to suppress? What are they afraid of?
“It is painful that anyone could bring such bill to the Senate, and

even more painful that the bill was allowed to pass through the first

reading.
“However, let those seeing the bill as a means of protecting

themselves realise that they won't be in power forever. They should

therefore refrain themselves from acts capable of taking Nigeria back

to those years of dictatorship that journalists were jailed

indiscriminately and media houses shut for years. They should remember

Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor of The Guardian newspapers.

“Most importantly, the Senate should be mindful of the fact that the

offences the proposed bill seeks to criminalise already exist under

Nigerian laws, including those on treason, defamation and libel.

“Lastly, let those supporting the obnoxious bill know that under a

democratic government, there cannot be criminal libel or defamation.

There can also not be a return of Decree 4 of 1984 and the Sedition

Law of the Colonial days.”
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