The Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) has cautioned the federal government against disrespecting the judgment of the Federal High Court in Lagos, which held that the Nigeria Press Council was unconstitutional.
The association specifically frowned on what it described as the surreptitious move by some federal government officials to bring back, through the back door, the Nigerian Press Council, which a court of competent jurisdiction had declared as unconstitutional three years ago.
In a communiqué issued at the end of its meeting in Abuja on Tuesday to examine the state of press freedom in the country and other important national issues, NPAN alerted that there was a clandestine move to revive the moribund Press Council, which was an official tool used to gag the press during the military rule.
In the communiqué, which was signed by NPAN President, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, the association called on the government to help deepen the country’s democracy by encouraging the full and complete implementation of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.
NPAN stated that since the country now has democratically elected government in place in the last 14 years it did not expect that elected leaders would follow the tried but failed tactics of past dictators in the country.
It contended that recent moves by some undemocratic elements in government indicated that there were still persons in government, who would rather not have a free and fair press but prefer to take steps to abridge the freedom of the press and the right of the people to have unfettered access to information.
Part of the communiqué read: “The NPAN particularly views with concern, the surreptitious move by these officials to bring back, through the back door, the Nigerian Press Council, which a court of competent jurisdiction had declared unconstitutional three years ago.
“We call on the federal government to respect the reasoned judgment on the Press Council, and help deepen our democracy by encouraging the full and complete implementation of the FoI signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan as a signal to the nation and the world that he would run an open government anchored on a free press.”
It also appealed to the federal government to stop the ongoing trial of the journalists of Leadership Group Limited, who were recently re-arraigned, after it had withdrawn the case against them and the company during the celebration of Free Freedom Day.
“Their continuing trial is inconsistent with the spirit of our collective democratic journey and unhelpful in the circumstances. The government should realise that the press has an important constitutional role to play in our democratic system, which includes holding it accountable at all times,” the communiqué further said.