UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Nigeria: Media Monitor (excerpts) Date distributed (ymd): 981025 Document reposted by APIC
Region: West Africa Issue Areas: +political/rights+ Summary Contents: This posting contains excerpts from two recent issues of Nigeria Media Monitor, as well as information on how to subscribe to the Monitor or to consult its archives on-line.
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also on Kilima
Nigeria Petrol Pipeline Explosion: An Avoidable Tragedy by Environmental Rights Action [Friends of the Earth Nigeria] ->http://www.kilima.com/nigeria/tragedy.html
news analysis by Reuben Abati of The Guardian (Nigeria): ->http://www.kilima.com/abati
'Redesigning a Nation' by Wole Soyinka (October 16, 1998 in Lagos) ->http://www.kilima.com/nigeria/soyinka.html
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 trial.
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 without trial.
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 be emphasised.
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 that freedom.
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. ...
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From: firstname.lastname@example.org Message-Id: <199810252053.MAA18495@igc3.igc.apc.org> Date: Sun, 25 Oct 1998 15:32:39 -0500 Subject: Nigeria: Media Monitor (excerpts)
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar, email@example.com