By Olalekan Awojodu
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SEREAP) has again dragged the Nigerian Government to the African Union Commission on Human Rights and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul over the proposed amendment to the Nigeria Press Council, and National Broadcasting Act meant to gag the Nigerian media.
In the complaint dated June 26, 2021, and signed by Deputy Director, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP specifically wants the Gambia to wade in and stop the President Buhari administration and the National Assembly from passing two bills intended to gag the media.
Gavel International recalls that two repressive bills are to amend the National Broadcasting Act and the Nigeria Press Council Act.
The bills which seek to impose arbitrary and harsh punishment on Journalsits, broadcast stations, media houses and media practitioners are sponsored by the Chairman House Representatives Committee on Information, Mr Segun Odebunmi of the People Democratic Party (PDP).
According to the group, the bills are not keeping with the provisions of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, which supplements Articles 1 and 9 of the African Charter.
In a complaint addressed to the Chairperson of the Commission, Mr. Solomon Ayele Derssa, and Commissioner and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Ms Jamesina Essie King, urged it to issue provisional measure to stop the bills currently receiving legislative action at the National Assembly.
SERAP said the complaint was brought pursuant to Articles 55 and 56 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Rule 100 of Procedure of the African Commission.
SERAP said, “The push by the Nigerian government and the National Assembly to support and pass the two anti-media bills is unlawful, as passing the bills would be contrary to the country’s obligation to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom under articles 1 and 9 of the African Charter.
While insisting on Press freedom in Nigeria’s 22 –year democracy, SERAP stated further: “A free press is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy, one in which Journalists are both benefactors and beneficiaries of human rights and carrying out their professional duties to inform their communities and enable democratic participation.
“Individual Journalists cannot do their jobs if the press is compromised or if the legal protections for that institution are subject to approvals by political authorities,”