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New Law Criminalising Journalism Practice in Nigeria

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The Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, has rejected the bid by a member of the House of Representatives, Odebunmi Olusegun (pictured above), to amend the law establishing the Nigerian Press Council, NPC, and the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC.

They said the envisaged amendments would kill free press in Nigeria and render journalists captives in the land.

The Guild, in a statement by the President, Mr. Mustapha Isah and General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, yesterday, described both the NPO and NBC amendment bills as draconian, given the provisions inserted into them by the sponsor of the bills Odebunmi Olusegun, a member of the House of Representatives from Oyo State, who is neither a journalist nor a social scientist.

The Guild argued that while the sponsors of the bills claimed that the amendments were geared towards moderating the ‘recklessness of the media, the bills are actually criminalising journalism practice in the country.

The body of editors argued that the media, which serve as the ‘oxygen of democracy’ would be strangulated if the bills are passed into law.

“At a time there is a popular ongoing global conversation about the need for a #NewDealForJournalism”, for immediate and sustained action from, and collaboration between governments and other influential actors to improve the policy, funding, and enabling environment for independent professional journalism, we see the proposed laws as unhelpful.

“While we are not opposed to an Act that will promote media stakeholders-driven regulatory council, the many draconian provisions in the Odebunmi Olusegun-sponsored bills are actually aimed at criminalising media practice in Nigeria.

“While the intention of the sponsor of the bills is suspicious, the bills negate all known features of media regulatory bodies in the world,’’ the Guild said.

It contended that while the NPC Act CAP N128, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1992, created by the military dictatorship gave the Council board full responsibility to administer the council, the proposed Act restricts the council board to ‘’advisory capacity on a part-time basis without direct interference in the day to day administration of the council”, and gives the Executive Secretary all the powers.

The Guild stated further that “While the proposed NPC Act says the Board shall consist of one representative each from the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ); Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE); Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN); Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON); Ministry of Information; two representatives of the general public, one of whom shall be a legal practitioner and a woman and Executive Secretary of the council, who shall serve as the secretary to the Board, the board is a mere advisory body.

“The Bill also says that the Chairman of the Board shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Minister in charge of Information.

“And that all other members of the Board shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation by the Minister of Information. The intention of this kind of Council is suspicious.’’

The body of editors is of the view that the professional body doesn’t need the approval of the Minister of Information to establish and disseminate a National Press Code and standards to guide the conduct of print media, related media houses and media practitioners and approves penalties and fines against violation of the press code, as provided for in the bill.

“The Guild is not aware of any media regulatory council in the world, which says media regulatory council shall establish a National Press and Ethical Code of Conduct for media houses and media practitioners, which shall come into effect and be disseminated after approval by the Minister of Information, and that the code shall be binding on every media houses and journalists.

“Again, apart from the fines for journalists or media houses that violate the Act, the bill also says that in an extreme case, the council shall order the striking out of the name of the journalist from the register;

“And suspend the person from practice by ordering him not to engage in practice as a journalist for a period not exceeding six months; as may be specified in the directive.

“This kind of media regulatory council will neither serve the interest of the media industry, strengthen its constitutional role of holding public officers accountable to the people nor serve the general interest of the public, who are the original trustees of the media,” the Guild explained.

The NGE noted that in the proposed NPC legislation, the sponsor mischievously smuggled in the controversial ‘’fake news” provision, stating that any person who carried news established to be fake thereafter, committed an offence;

“And was liable on conviction to a fine of N5 million or a term of two-year imprisonment or both, as well as a compensation of N2 million payable to the person(s), group(s), corporate bodies, government or any of its agencies whom the news was carried against.”

According to the NGE, the bill also states that any print media house whose m edium is used to carry such news is liable on conviction to a fine of N10million or closure of such media house for a period of one year or both;

“And compensation of N20 million to the person, group, corporate body, government or any of its agencies, whom the news was carried against.”

On the proposed NBC amendment legislation, the Guild said Section 23 of the bill which gave the Minister of Information powers to participate in the making of regulations, was unhelpful, saying the participation of the minister will turn NBC into a tool for political interference.

The Guild noted that the provisions of the two bills gave the impression that the Federal Government was out to crush its enemy, insisting that the media was not an enemy of the state.

The NGE added that the two bills if passed, would compound the nation’s negative image in the global community.

“Nigeria comes in at No. 120, the rough equivalent of a D+ in this year’s index by Reporters Without Borders.

“You’ll find similar results on the Democracy Index where Nigeria is ranked No. 110— the lowest-ranking Hybrid Regime, one slot away from Authoritarianism,’’ the NGE said.

VanguardNigeria

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Politics

North Kivu Military Governor Sets Up Base In Beni

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In North Kivu, the Military Governor has established his base in Beni in the heart of the operational sector, according to meeting of the Council of Ministers held on Friday July 30 by videoconference.

With his headquarters installed in the region of Beni, Lt. Gen. Ndima Constant will easily coordinate and closely monitors the progress of military operations against armed groups active in Beni including the ADF rebels.

Lt. Gen. Ndima said that calm had returned to territories of Lubero, Masisi, Nyiragongo, Walikale as well as in the town of Butembo.”

According to the Military Governor, more rebels have reportedly surrendered to the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Addressing the question on the closure carried out by the security forces in the city of Goma on July 18, 2021 in the Bujovu district to reduce the circulation of arms and promote the return of peace, the head of the National Defense indicated that these these operations resulted in the arrest of 139 people, including ten soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and 9 foreign nationals made available to the migration service.

“66 of these 139 people were released and 73 others transferred to Munzenze prison. Weapons and ammunition were seized from some houses of the criminals, ” said Lt. Gen. Ndima.

In his speech, the Minister of National Defense and Veterans Affairs also signaled the completion in Goma of the construction site of 1,000 houses for the victims of Nyiragongo Volcanic eruption.

“They will soon be delivered to the beneficiaries,” he clarified.

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Politics

Burundi Government Withdraws Guards From Opposition CNL Deputies

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Members of Parliament aligned to the opposition National Congress for Liberty party in Burundi have expressed fear for their safety after government withdrew their bodyguards.

In the past days, local media has been leaking information that CNL deputies would soon lose their guards. For their safety, they will have to resort to guards offered by the police stations of their electoral districts.

“It’s in their constituencies that they are supposed to live,” said Désiré Nduwimana the Police Spokesman.

“The measure would concern all deputies. “We were told this at the start of our legislature,” one member of parliament was quoted by local media Iwacu on condition of anonymity.

A measure that worries deputies from the CNL party.

“This is not the measure that worries us. But rather its implementation in this period, ”a CNL Member of the National Assembly said.

Indeed, the measure comes at a time when members of the CNL party evoke “arbitrary arrests and forced disappearances of its supporters. ”

One of the fears of CNL deputies is to end up with “security agents who could be the source of their insecurity,” said this source.

“At the moment we have API agents to keep us safe, like ministers and other state officials. ”

Another CNL member said when we are from the CNL, “the worry is twofold, we do not know if we are going to choose our own security guards or if they are going to impose them on us.”

CNL party spokesman Thérence Manirambona says the safety of a people’s elected representative should be provided by someone he trusts.

“This should not be the privilege of members of the office of the National Assembly and a few members of the government,” he said.

Of the 126 members of the National Assembly, only 32 deputies come from the main opposition party, the CNL.

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Politics

Tanzania’s Main Opposition Party Chadema Leader Arrested

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Freeman Mbowe and 10 members of Tanzania’s main opposition party Chadema have been rounded up and locked behind bars pending serious charges.

According to details from Chadema social media accounts, the opposition leader and his cadres were rounded up in the dead of night in the northwestern port city of Mwanza.

Chadema was preparing to hold a planned conference to demand constitutional reforms on Wednesday.

“We condemn the repression of the rights of Tanzanians with the strongest force. These are signs that the dictatorship that existed during the rule of President John Magufuli continues,” the party charged.

“Freeman Mbowe was accosted by an army of police officers in his hotel when he arrived at 02:30 am and was arrested together with other leaders,” it said.

While the other Chadema members were taken to Mwanza police station, there was no information about Mbowe’s whereabouts.

“We want the police to come out and say where the chairman is and why he was arrested,” Chadema said.

The arrests come four months after President Samia Suluhu Hassan took office in March following the sudden death of her predecessor Magufuli.

There have been high hopes that Hassan would usher in a change from the autocratic rule of her predecessor, who was nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style.

The arrests took place after Mbowe vowed to go ahead with a meeting on constitutional reforms despite Mwanza provincial authorities banning public gatherings to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“We cannot continue with the old order,” Mbowe said in a video published on Twitter on Monday, dressed in a red shirt and beret.

“We have the right to meet but are arrested, beaten, accused and taken to court for two to three years and then freed.

“If they want to arrest all members of the Chadema party, let them first expand the jails because we are all ready to be arrested and will not request bail.”

In April, Hassan had reached out to the opposition and vowed to defend democracy and basic freedoms in the East African country, which had seen a slide into autocratic rule under her predecessor.

In November 2020, several top opposition leaders including Mbowe were briefly detained after calling for mass protests against what they charged was a rigged election that returned then president Magufuli to power for a second term.

The deeply Covid-sceptic Magufuli died in March of what the authorities said was a heart condition but his political opponents insisted he had coronavirus.

Tanzania was long seen as a haven of stability and democracy in an otherwise volatile neighbourhood, but alarm grew over Magufuli’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

Nationmedia

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