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Hate Speech Bill: Frontline editors condemn proposal

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Urge FG to tackle economy, release detained journalists

RISING from an intense session of deliberations on the challenges facing Nigeria’s mass media industry, editors of major newspapers, broadcast organisations and online publications rallied under their umbrella body, the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) and called for radical action to save Nigeria’s economy and prioritization of democratic norms to governance to Save the country 

  The NGE  urged the federal government to overhaul its economy architecture, address dwindling fortunes of the nation and release journalists being detained across the country as prisoners of conscience. 

  This was contained  in a communiqué released on Tuesday at  the end of the  15th.  All Nigeria Editors’ Conference  of NGE. The five-day conference was held under the Theme: `A Distressed Media: Impact on Government, Governance and the Society”’ in Sokoto, capital of Sokoto State..

  The communiqué,  which was co-signed by the NGE President, Mustapha Isah, and the General Secretary, Ms Mary Atolagbe,  stated  that by focusing on making the economy buoyant and dwelling less on hindering press freedom, the government would increase the revenue generation of the country .

  The forum of frontline editors of Nigerian print and electronic media observed that the dwindling  economy  has affected  all sectors including  the media.  NGE therefore,  called  for serious capital injection into the media industry to overcome under-capitalisation and the extinction of media businesses.

  The body  expressed concern over the proposed fake news and hate speech bills currently being treated by the  National Assembly, drawing  the attention of both the legislators and the federal government to the fact that there are already in existence enough laws to check defamation in the country even when it come in the forms of fake news and hate speeches or whatever guise. Hence, it will be inappropriate for any other law to come in place on board now.

Moreso, when the law appears to interfere with press freedom in a country that is striving tenaciously to imbibe democracy and good governance. The editors observed that the latitudes of those provisions in Nigeria’s constitution are yet to be fully explored.

 Observing the vital roles robust media culture plays in governance and economic growth, the  editors  called for  conscious diversification, improved funding, collaboration, specialised journalism education programmes, newsroom re-engineering, among other innovations necessary for revenue generation and sustenance of  the ebbing media businesses in Nigeria.

  The conference which had members of NGE alongside veteran editors such as a former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, among others in attendance, identified ownership interference as a key factor militating against free operation of the media in the country.

The conference therefore resolved that if owners of both public and private media organisations pay more attention to facilitating the smooth operations of the media as truly business outfits, the country will reap immense reward from it.

  The editors condemned all dictatorial tendencies against the media and stressed the need to collectively fight against all media abuses by non professionals.

  Similarly, in his speech while opening the conference, Gov Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, condemned any attempt to gag the media. He flawed the proposed bill on  fake news. The governor, who was a former speaker of the House of Representative said: “such positions have no provisions in a constitutional democracy like ours.”

  NGE also frowned at attempts to punish conventional media for the wrongs of few non professionals operating in the social media.

  Keynote speaker, Gbenga Adefaye, Editor-in-Chief of Vanguard Newspapers and a former president of NGE dwelt on the need for new tool kits and skill set in the industry and in governance in his paper entitled: A Distressed Media: Impact on Government, Governance and Society!

 Also among paper presenters was the Managing  Director of Tribune Newspaper, Mr Dickson who discussed the ‘myth or reality of new’ media replacing current newsroom.

 Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation (ANPC), publishers of National Light Newspaper, Sir Chuka Nnabuife, Managing Director of Sun Newspapers, Mr Onuoha Uke, Wahab Elams of Daar Communication, among others made presentations at the ‘Solution  Roundtable: A Distressed Media; The Way Out.    

Nnabuife presented the National Light model of transformation as a case study for distressed media industry. He emphasised ethics instead of hounding the innocent industry for the misdeamenor on the quacks. Government and operators in the industry should place premium of journalism education so that Nigeria would have “good reporter with modern skills.”

This was the view of Gbemiga Ogunleye who presented a paper entitled ‘journalism Education and Shrinking Opportunities.      

  The editors also called for the immediate release of all detained journalists across the country, stating that democracy thrived better in countries that cherished and promoted media freedom.

The editors  “ratified the election of Mr Mustapha Isah as the substantive President of the Guild, following the appointment of Mrs Funke Egbemode as the Commissioner of Information and Orientation in the State of Osun””.

The NGE commended   the Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, for his good  works in the state and for hosting and supporting the Guild to have a successful conference.

  They resolved to set up a committee to prepare for its 50th anniversary and come up with a compendium to showcase its activities since inception.

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