Posted by Olugbenga Soyele, Lagos | 17 October 2019 | 1,238 times
Human rights lawyer Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) has called on Nigerians, the civil societies and the media to hold the present and future governments accountable to the promise not to muzzle the press.
Adegboruwa said that it is only when citizens are docile and accept to be bullied into silence that the reign of terror takes the place of press freedom which is the hallmark of democracy.
The lawyer was speaking on the theme “Press freedom in the new social media age: implications and the law”.
He also referred to the statement of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, at a conference on hate speech, during which he said categorically that it would be impossible to regulate the social media without substantially infringing on fundamental rights, especially freedom of expression and that of Secretary to Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who was quoted as saying that “the Buhari Administration will not muzzle the press”.
He noted that it is only a government that is up to something bad that is afraid of being exposed and called on media practitioners not to be scared but go ahead and publish if the information at their disposal has been verified to be nothing but the facts.
For the media outfits who will stop a damning story because of personal or business interest, Ebun-Olu Adeboruwa called on the author of the story to give it out to bloggers or online media who will publish it without fear or favour for the good of the society.
But the former Managing Director of The Nation Newspaper and former Editor The Nation Newspaper online, Lekan Otunfodunrin, however disagreed with him, urging journalists to thread with caution since it could end up in dismissal.
He averred that section 39 of the 1999 constitution is not only restricted to press freedom but includes the right to hold peaceful protest and demand for good governance such as #RevolutionNow, among others adding that what is happening to the convener #RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowore and Publisher of Crossriverwatch.com Agba Jalingo is nothing but vindictiveness.
Commenting more on the social media, he noted that though there are challenges of fake news, hate speeches, defamation and other vices associated with the use of the social media but that these are not enough to regulate the already regulated use of the social media through enactments which sometimes violate constitutional provisions.
He alluded to the Cyber-Crime Prohibition Act, Criminal Code Act, Penal Code Act and the Nigerian Press Council Act, adding that these laws are sufficient to address any fear arising from the use of social media. Besides, he argued that an aggrieved person has the option of initiating a civil suit where his personal rights are breached.
“It is thus an act of cowardice for the ruling elite to contemplate enactment of laws to gag the press and go after soft target, i.e. the new media or the street journalists who now find consolation in the social media to air his or her views on issues of concern in the state,” he said.
He explained that the Telecom VAT Tax is nothing but an attempt to muzzle the social media by making it expensive so as to take it out of the reach of the ordinary Nigerian.
He called on the new media to form association to defend themselves, train members and put in place self-regulatory measures.
Earlier, Chairman of NAJUC, Lagos, Mr. Peter Fowoyo, called on journalists to embrace the new media for self-reliance.
Other highlight of the day was the presentation of Freedom Speaks, a poetic rendition in honour of practising journalists, urging them not to let the ink in their pen dry up and presentation of awards. Recipients of the awards include Rotimi Oyedepo (Best Financial Crime Prosecutor of the year 2019), Ebun-Olu Adeboruwa (Best Human Right Lawyer 2019), Kayode Oyekanmi (Best Public Sector Officer of the Year 2019), Barrister Morufu Ajani Animashaun (Best Financial Criminal Prosecutor of the Year 2019) and Tunde Opeseitan, who got NAJUC honourary award 2019. (LEADERSHIP)
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