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Nigeria: Media Monitor (excerpts)
Nigeria: Media Monitor (excerpts)
Date distributed (ymd): 981025
Document reposted by APIC
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+
This posting contains excerpts from two recent issues of Nigeria Media
as well as information on how to subscribe to the Monitor or to consult
its archives on-line.
TO OUR DEAR READERS:
1. Media Monitor is designed as a dialogical project. We expect its
contents to elicit reactions from its readers. And we encourage you to
share your feelings with others on its pages. Letters not longer than 200
words and addressed to The Editor, Media Monitor, should be sent to: email@example.com
2. It is our desire that Media Monitor gets to all locations where people
believe in the cause of free expression, democracy and freedom. We are
working to extend the reach of the publication. And we implore you to support
this endeavour. How? Simply compile and e-mail to us a list of persons
and organizations who you believe would find this publication useful for
their work. We will promptly put them on our mailing list. For a searchable
archive of current or past issues of Media Monitor or to subscribe/unsubscribe
to Media Monitor go to: http://www.kilima.com/mediamonitor
Our target audience includes media, free expression/human rights bodies,
NGOs, diplomatic / policy centres, professional associations, departments
/ schools of journalism / mass communication / government / political science
/ african studies, and other strategic circles.
MEDIA MONITOR IS PUBLISHED WEEKLY AND CIRCULATED WORLDWIDE BY:
INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM CENTRE (IJC)
TEJUMOLA HOUSE, 1ST FLOOR
24 OMOLE LAYOUT, NEW ISHERI ROAD
NIGERIA, WEST AFRICA
also on Kilima
Nigeria Petrol Pipeline Explosion: An Avoidable Tragedy by
Environmental Rights Action [Friends of the Earth Nigeria]
news analysis by Reuben Abati of The Guardian (Nigeria):
'Redesigning a Nation' by Wole Soyinka (October 16, 1998 in Lagos)
Nigeria Media Monitor
Monday, October 5, 1998, #03-39
RIGHTS COMMISSION SEEKS ABROGATION OF DECREE 2
Government has been urged by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
to abrogate Decree 2 which empowers the Inspector-General of Police to
detain any person considered to be a security risk indefinitely without
The executive secretary of the commission. Dr. Mohammed Tabi'u made
the call at a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) forum in Abuja, saying an immediate
repeal of the decree was imperative because its provisions were in conflict
with the position of the this country's constitution on the issue of detention
According to him, while the decree allows for the detention of anybody
considered a security risk for three months, which could be extended several
times, the constitution explicitly specifies that any suspect arrested
must be charged to court within a reasonable period of time.
"The position of the commission is that the exclusion of judicial
review in the decree means that there is no control of any kind over the
use of that decree, whether abused or not," he stated.
"The view of the commission," he said, "is that the decree
should either be abrogated or reviewed or be made available for judicial
review, but we would prefer its outright repeal."
Tabi'u said the commission has also embarked on a sensitisation programme
on human rights value for Nigeria police force personnel.
According to him, the top echelon of the force was being educated to
understand that the fundamental rights of citizens did not stand in the
way of their duty of maintaining law and order.
The exercise, he said, started in June this year with a workshop on
the "duties and responsibility of the police vis-a-vis the rights
and responsibilities of the citizens," which drew participants from
the police force, non-governmental organisations and the public.
He said human rights were being taught at police schools and colleges,
with a view to enlighten the force on the democratic way of life, especially
as the nation moves back to civil rule next year.
Tabi'u added that particular attention was being paid to the basic rights,
especially the right of expression and the right of assembly.
He said the top echelon of the force was being enlightened on the psychological
trauma detainees suffered when they were not charged before a court of
law after a very long time, saying that bails and temporary releases should
The commission, Tabi'u said, was still waiting for vital information
to enable it decide on a course of action in the case of former The News
reporter, the late Bagauda Kaltho, said to have died in a bomb blast at
Durbar Hotel in Kaduna in 1996.
According to him, the commission received a report on the disappearance
of Kaltho from his employers about a year ago.
However, since the report was lodged, no further information was received
on the case in spite of numerous appeals made by the commission, he added.
The commission has received 300 complaints since its inception in 1995,
the executive secretary added, saying about half of the complaints, mostly
on detention without trial and high handedness by security agents, had
been disposed of while the rest were being "adequately handled".
Nigeria Media Monitor
Monday, October 19, 1998, #03-41
THE PLOT TO KILL FREEDOM - Tony Momoh raises alarm
The media, particularly, the print media, above any other segment of
the Nigerian society suffered the greatest under the jackboot of late despot,
General Sani Abacha. His regime hung the label of an endangered specie
on journalists as scores of them were harassed, intimidated, detained and
even accused of planning to stage a coup.
In spite of the death of Abacha and the end of his inglorious rule,
certain vested interested are still bent on keeping the media in perpetual
chains. Not minding the several checks and balances on media practice in
Nigeria, including codified laws, they have smuggled into the draft constitution
a provision for a National Mass Media Commission which will keep the media
virtually under state control.
Prince Tony Momoh, former Information Minister is one of the commission's
most vocal opponents and in this interview, he talks about the danger the
body poses to the media, the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression
and the survival of democracy in Nigeria. He also dwells on general media
and political issues. Please read on.
In spite of all efforts to stop the emergence of the much touted Mass
Media Commission, it appears some people are bent on having it. Who are
really the sponsors of this commission and for what purpose?
Momoh: In the first case, the National Mass Media Commission (1995)
constitution and whose functions are published under Section 46 of the
first part of the Third schedule of the draft constitution. It's a commission
that the president of Nigeria must inaugurate within the first year of
thing in office. It is one of many such commissions. How it came into the
constitution is debatable. But I discovered it when I saw the serialisation
of the constitutional provisions in the newspapers and I drew the attention
of the media to it.
You won't believe it, for almost one year, they could do nothing or
they would do nothing about it until I wrote and said well, you are the
owners of the newspapers and other media. I am not. Then they took it up
seriously. Since then, we have had a position paper from the Newspaper
Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), the Guild of Editors and the
NUJ, under the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO). The NUJ, Lagos chapter
has brought out its own stand, has brought out its own stand. ...
Alhaji Ismaila Isa Funtua, President of NPAN and also chairman of the
NPO has said that he was in the Constitutional Conference and that there
was a proposal for a commission. But the functions and composition in the
present draft are not as proposed. It was during the review, he claimed,
that the thing must have been smuggled in by certain vested interests in
the administration. So it was not the Constitutional Conference that suggested
that type of thing. That is what Alhaji Ismaila said.
What actually is your quarrel with the commission?
I am concerned with that section 154(Q) of the draft constitution which
establishes the Media Monitor Commission and with section 46 of Part 1
of the Third schedule which defines its composition and schedule. And the
functions are so embarrassingly censorial.
You don't have any problems with the composition?
No, the composition is not the issue. It's what they are supposed to
do, even it is an all-media body. The issue is what has it powers to do.
Ghana has a Mass Media Commission - same name. But the Ghana mass media
commission has the same functions as the Nigerian Press Council. So, it
really depends on what you want the commission to do. If you constitute
a body and say it is going to be composed of the executive of the NUJ and
that they must establish newspaper and define who runs the newspaper and
when it publishes it, then you are giving it functions it can not perform.
The National Mass Media Commission as a body that must be inaugurated
within one year of the president coming into office is a dangerous body,
a dangerous commission that is going to destroy the press. Not only that,
it will destroy democracy in the country.
Because freedom of expression is for Nigerians, not the media. The constitutional
provision of freedom of expression is the fundamental right of people,
of the citizenry, of the polity. The press is only the channel for exercising
So, when you now, of one reason or the other, constrain the performance
of the press, you are denying the expression of that freedom to the people.
It is as simple as that.
Okay, tell me. The constitution provides for the right of assembly of
movement, of doing business anywhere in the country, of residing anywhere
in the country. But then, this commission says if you are not publicly
or federal government owned, you cannot operate outside your state of operation.
Is that not denying you the right of doing business? Newspaper is not just
a social responsibility, it is a business. We are saying that nobody can
rightly invest in newspaper publishing and make money when its circulated
is limited to a state of the federation.
The draft also says the staffing must reflect federal character. What
type of thing is that? And the functions of the commission are so outrageous
that they will even teach you what to write and define for you what is
lawful information and what is balanced reporting. What kind of thing is
that? What is the competence of anybody in this country that is not a professional
journalist to define what is lawful information or balanced reporting?
It is a purely professional thing. ...
Is it not rather late in the day for the media to do anything about
its final inclusion in the constitution?
How can we not do anything about it? The constitution is still a draft.
There is no constitution yet. But if we do not do anything to ensure that
the Abubakar administration does not include it in the constitution, then
I can assure you, no member of the National Assembly will get up and say
he wants to do it for you. No legislator wants to help the press all over
the world. Even in America, during the Hutkins Commission on the press
and in England during the Royal Commission. In South Africa during their
own commission on the press. All commissions have always asked for statutory
regulation of the press. ...
Reading through the draft constitution, it appears that politicians
preparing for the next republic just want a way of controlling the press
and that's why they have smuggled the idea of the commission into the draft.
Is that a reasonable conclusion? Because many people think the Nigerian
press exercises excessive freedom, and the press council has no power to
do anything. ...
I am a member of the board of the Press Council and I know the federal
government sent us documentation complaining about the media for almost
a year. We looked at them and discovered we could do nothing and said sorry,
we can't do anything. This may have been one of the reasons why the Mass
Media Commission came about.
But incidentally, the things that were sent to the Press Council bothered
on criminality and the Press Council had no power to deal with them. That
was the time they now started to establish a press court which we have
fought to a standstill. Then, the Newspaper Registration Board too which
we fought to a standstill. This one has come again which we are fighting
to a standstill. But this is going to be different because it is a constitutional
provision and the president must inaugurate the body. But if that happens,
we are finished. All we can do is say it is unconstitutional and go to
court. Before we finish with that you know how long that will take? But
meanwhile, they enforce the commission's decision.
So, for instance, the Concord, Guardian, Punch, Vanguard, Post Express
and Champion which are not publicly or state owned can be on the INTERNET
and be seen world-wide, but you can not circulate beyond Otta or Shagamu.
Or else the police will go and impound your paper. And if you try to fly
out by air, the airline will tell you it is contraband.
So, the thing to do is to strengthen the Nigerian Press Council and
persuade the federal government not to include the Mass Media Commission
in the constitution.
Now, sir, let us examine broader media issues. Do you think that media
in Nigeria really enjoys too much freedom, as some people say.
The media never enjoys too much freedom. All the media can do is to
be enslaved through too little freedom which usually is not granted by
government but is available for the taking. Freedom is never given, it
is taken. You can never talk of too much freedom. You can only talk of
too little freedom in the sense of someone encroaching on available freedom.
For instance, fundamental rights are rights of the human spirit. God gave
them and he didn't give them through someone. When you mature for them
in the polity, you automatically assume them. But there are channels for
the expression. You can do that through clothes, dances, drama and speech.
You can even express this freedom through media, broadcast or radio. And
now there is the super highway-the INTERNET. That is another level of expression.
So how can we now sit down and say that the Concord can not circulate
beyond Lagos. Why? It is rubbish. So there can not be too much freedom.
People can only hamper the expression of freedom. And that is why I am
a campaigner for duties before rights. You must know your duties to society
and perform them before you enjoy your rights.
So, to round off, some people might be saying that the press in Nigeria
is too free because of the irresponsible way some newspapers undertake
publication. They destroy the media. There are professional attitudes or
levels of performance for the media guided by the code of conduct and we
should perform professionally. Those who crash into journalism and do so
much harm are the ones encouraging some people to want to put a thing like
the Mass Media Commission in the constitution. ...
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa
Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen
the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S.
role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant
information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.