The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that he would not be a party to any bill that sought to restrain media practitioners.
Gbajabiamila made the assertion at an award ceremony on Monday tagged ’’ Recognising Good Governance and Legislative Excellence in the Face of Adversity,” in Abuja.
Recall that TheNewsBeam reported that the front pages of some major newspapers in Nigeria on Monday, July 12, 2021 had the same headline title; “Information Blackout.” The action was in protest against the media bill being considered by the Members of the Federal House of Representatives. The bill is being sponsored by the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, Olusegun Odebunmi.
However, the speaker has reacted to the call by some stakeholders to expunge the Press Council Bill which sought to regulate activities of media practitioners.
“I will not be part of any bill that will seek to gag the press, no bill will come to the floor of the house that seeks to gag the press because the press is supposed to be the voice of the people.
“However, there is press freedom and there is freedom of expression; it is important for Nigerians to listen to one another and understand each other so that we can make progress as a nation.
“There is nowhere in the world where freedom of expression in absolute, freedom of expression is limited to the extent that it does not affect another person’s freedom.
“That is made abundantly clear in the Constitution itself. If you go to section 45, it states the freedom of expression you have is limited for sake of security, it is written in black and white.
Gbajabiamila, however, said he was worried because whenever the National Assembly tried to make laws with the best of intentions, everybody descended on the parliament even without asking questions.
The speaker said he had directed proponent of the Press Council Bill to engage stakeholders and resolve grey areas, but the report he got was that they wanted the bill thrown out completely.
He said NGOs, religious bodies, social media and professors in the universities did not want to be regulated, saying that everybody just wanted to have a free range.
Gbajabiamila said that people wanted good governance, but do not want to be regulated, stressing that regulation was a key component of good governance.
“We cannot let every institution run amok, the executive is regulated, the judiciary to a large extent is regulated, the legislature is regulated; institutions are meant to be regulated, there is not one institution that is above the law.
“Especially an institution that is meant to be the fourth Estate of the Realm, whose utterances or writing can make or break even a government,’’ he said.
The speaker said that if the key sector refused to be regulated, there may be crisis, saying that as a result of media content, marriages have broken, businesses destroyed, countries ruined.