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Under pressure, Nigerian lawmakers suspend deliberations on new laws to regulate media

House of Representatives plenary [PHOTO CREDIT: @Punchngr]

The sponsor of the controversial Nigeria Press Council (NPC) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) amendment bills, Segun Odebunmi, on Tuesday said that the House has agreed to suspend the bills.

Mr Odebunmi who doubles as the chairman of the House Committee on information, national orientation, ethics and values, said the reprieve would avail the lawmakers time for proper consultations over the bill.

“We have been on this process for a while and right now, we have suspended it for more consultation to happen,” Mr. Odebunmi, who spoke on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, said.

The bills have been resisted by Nigerians, including a media solidarity on Monday calling for the bills to be thrown out.

Media groups called it draconian, but the lawmakers said it was aimed at oiling the machineries of the press for optimum performance.

The media groups would have none of that as they launched a widely circulated advertorial that ran with the caption ‘Information Blackout,’ on the front page of many national dailies of Monday and Tuesday as well as television chyron and leads graphics on online media.

“It’s not just against the media,” the advertorial read. “It is about society’s right to know, your right to be heard.”

The groups saw the bills as an extension of the existing censorship on broadcast stations, which are often ordered to stop airing programmes the government feels displeased with and slammed with heavy fines at will when there is an alleged breach.

On one hand, the Nigeria Press Council (NPC) empowers the president to appoint the chairman of the board of the council as well as other members of the board upon the recommendation of the information minister.

On the other hand, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) amendment bill wants lawmakers to arrogate the power to censor the media to “all online media” as it is with broadcast media.

Earlier in June, the government suspended the operations of the microblogging site Twitter, citing protection of national sovereignty. It has since been seeking to place other social media platforms under its control.

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