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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.

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Politics

Cameroon: Armed Conflict Can’t Resolve Anglophone Crisis Says Archbishop Nkea

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Metropolitan Archbishop of Bamenda, Andrew Nkea Fuanya says he is dismayed by the world’s indifference towards the conflict in the English speaking territories of Cameroon.

“In many other parts of the world where there is an ongoing conflict, if someone dies or there are attacks, the press all over the planet talk about it. In Cameroon, clashes, killings, massacres or kidnappings have taken place every day for years, but nobody talks about it. Obviously, they are of no interest to anyone, and this increases our suffering,” observed Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya. He spoke to the Agenzia Fides.

The Anglophone Crisis sometimes referred to as the Ambazonia War or the Cameroonian Civil War, is an armed conflict in the English speaking territories of Cameroon.

The Anglophone regions of Cameroon are the South-West and North-West regions. They make up about twenty per cent of Cameroon’s population.

The current conflict spiralled out of control following the 2016–17 Cameroonian protests about marginalisation.
The protests were forcefully suppressed by Cameroonian authorities.

What resulted was a low-scale insurgency that has since intestified and spread to most parts of the English speaking areas. Political observers say that the violence has recently worsened.

The insurgents known as Amba Boys fighting the security forces seek to form a separate state called Ambazonia.

World’s indifference is troubling

Archbishop Nkea is saddened by the general silence from the international community towards the conflict in Cameroon.

In the last five years, the conflict has caused thousands of deaths and created families that are internally displaced.

Over one million persons have fled and become refugees in Nigeria.

People just want a normal life

“The political situation is still very difficult, and the crisis continues. There is no way out. Violence increases, and more and more weapons circulate among the separatists.

The population is exhausted. They no longer want war. They just want a normal life.

The Church and other religious communities in the area say they are committed to promoting dialogue and national reconciliation.

No alternative to dialogue

“There is a platform of religious leaders which is now a point of reference for all dialogue. We speak directly to the government and then to the Amba Boys. We meet them secretly, and we are in constant contact. In the meantime, we are also trying to talk to the (Ambazonia) independence leaders in the diaspora. Thwy are important because they are very influential people. Although carried out with great difficulty, the dialogue is bearing some fruit, such as the reopening of schools. Now sixty per cent of young people attend school regularly,” said Archbishop Nkea.

The Archbishop of Bamenda added, “This conflict can never be resolved with arms. There is no alternative to dialogue,” he emphasised.

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Politics

Laurent Gbagbo Launches New Political Party

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The Political tempo in Ivory Coast is rising steadily as Laurent Gbagbo, a former Convict at the International Criminal Tribunal forms a new political party to take a shot at the 2025 Presidential elections.

“This is Laurent Gbagbo’s big comeback on the political scene,” said Justin Koné Katinan, spokesperson for the former head of state.

Since his arrival in Abidjan on June 17, acquitted by international justice who tried him for crimes against humanity in the bloody post-election crisis of 2010, Laurent Gbagbo has never been far from politics.

Gbagbo says he wants to “unite the left”, with the 2025 presidential election in his sights.

Visit to the former president and former rival Henri Konan Bédié, meeting of “reconciliation” with the head of state Alassane Ouattara, final rupture with his former Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan: he occupied the Ivorian political landscape. “Let’s assume we’re playing politics,” he said on July 10, when he visited Henri Konan Bédié.

The Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), his historic party founded underground in 1982, now in the hands of Pascal Affi N’Guessan, Laurent Gbagbo has chosen to breathe new life into his return by creating his own party.

Nearly 1,600 delegates are expected at the prestigious Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan to draft the manifesto and the texts of this new formation, which should be called the “African Peoples Party – Ivory Coast” (PPA-CI).

In both the name and the logo – two hands intertwined in a map of Africa – which will be offered on Sunday, the emphasis is on the pan-African dimension of the party. The sovereignty of Africa vis-à-vis the Western powers should be one of the main themes of the congress this weekend.

However, there is no question of abandoning national politics in the Ivory Coast. In the entourage of the former president, the watchword is clear: this new party aims to recreate a political debate in a country where the opposition has been considerably weakened for 10 years.

“We want to build a normal political opposition party that brings criticism. So that the debate leaves violence and becomes essentially political ”, proclaims Justin Koné Katinan.

“We are waiting to see if it will be a real opposition or a party in search of power. We will see how they proceed, what their alternative program will be, “said political analyst Sylvain N’Guessan.

With Simone Gbagbo?

It remains to be seen which Ivorian political figures will join this platform. A large part of the executives and former ministers of the FPI will follow their former leader in this new adventure, but some unknowns remain.

Simone Gbagbo The former First Lady, whom Laurent Gbagbo filed for divorce on his return to Ivory Coast, has been sending signals in recent weeks to go it alone, like the launch of a platform supporting her.

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Politics

Britain To Return Cock Statue British Soldiers Stole From Nigeria

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In 1897, British colonial forces raided a Court of Benin in what is now Nigeria and stole a bronze cockerel and shipped it out of Africa and kept it in Britain. It was later donated to Jesus College of Cambridge University in 1905.

However, in 2019, Jesus college decided to backtrack on keeping a stolen statue (Okukor) and announced it would hand it back to Nigeria.

The whole process to return the Okukor statue started in 2016 after students protested, saying it represented a colonial narrative. The college administrators decided to remove the statue from public view.

The college set up a working group to examine the legacy of slavery, and the group concluded that the statue “belongs with the current Oba at the Court of Benin.”

The Oba of Benin is head of the historic Eweka dynasty of the Benin Empire, centred on Benin City in modern-day Nigeria.

The college said Friday that it will hand over the statue to Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments in a ceremony at Cambridge on Oct. 27.

His Royal Majesty, Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare II, said he was “indeed very pleased and commend Jesus College for taking this lead in making restitution for the plunder that occurred in Benin in 1897.”

“We truly hope that others will expedite the return of our artworks, which in many cases are of religious importance to us,” he said.

Thousands of artifacts were looted after British imperial troops occupied Benin City in 1897.

However, the British Museum in London has said it doesn’t currently have plans to return parts of its collection.

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