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Nigerian Newspapers To Start Front Page Protest Against Draconian Rule

A Resolution has been made to resist the government’s attempt to stifle the media’s constitutional freedom of speech in Nigeria by The Nigerian Press Organisation.

Starting from July 12, 2021 Front Page protest by publishing a uniform artwork in all the newspapers will be staged.

The protest is expected to continue on July 13, 2021, with all newspapers carrying a front page editorial “with a central theme – denouncing government’s attempt to stifle the people’s right to know through its crude attempt to return the country into the draconian era of the military, even as we are in a democracy.”

In statement signed by Mr. Feyi Smith, on behalf of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), after a meeting held in Lagos, he said the July 14, 2021 publication will explain why and what prompted activities of the two previous days.

The statement read, “It confers on the Press Council the power to determine ethics and fake news, investigate infractions and impose fines on journalists, publishers and distributors. It proposes fines of up to N.25 million on the journalist, and N5 million on a corporate body. It specifies jail terms of one to three years and fines ranging from N.25 million to N5 million on journalists, news agents and media outlets.

“It proposes a fine of between N2 million to N5 million to erring purveyors, two years in jail and compensation for fake news while the medium of publication is liable to N10 million fine or closure for one year in addition to payment of N20 million as compensation to the aggrieved party.

“The bill, draconian and anti-press freedom is a poor mix and resurrection of the obnoxious Public Officers Protection Against False accusation Decree No. 4 of 1984 and the Newspapers Registration Decree 43 of 1993, both vestiges of the dark days of military rule. It assumes that there are no extant laws to penalise media infractions and exact restitution for the aggrieved persons.

“The new NBC is no less galling, making the Minister of Information the Monster Minister with sweeping powers to make and enforce regulations online and offline.”

The meeting noted that the bill as currently concocted, “is a sinister, draconian legislative ambush, which seeks to choke the media with exactly those prayers the NPAN has taken before the Supreme Court of Nigeria, seeking relief to unshackle the press in a democracy, and encourage it to from perform its constitutional responsibility of holding the government accountable to the people at all times, as enshrined in Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

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