On Monday, July 12, major Nigerian media houses including the Daily Sun, Vanguard, The Nation, and Punch displayed an artwork of a person with a sealed mouth boldly on the front pages of their newspapers. At the base is written, ‘Information Blackout: This is what the National Assembly wants to achieve with the NPC and NBC (Media) Act Amendment Bills. “It’s not just against the media…it’s about society’s rights to know, your rights to be heard.”
The message is a joint release from the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) signifying a pushback against the Nigerian government’s draconian laws that stifle press freedom.
These advertorials are opposing the government’s move to amend the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) Act Cap N128, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1992. The NPC Amendment bill seeks to give more powers to the Minister of Information to control the conduct of print media houses and media practitioners. According to Section 3 (c) of the bill, “with the approval of the minister in charge of information, establish and disseminate a national Press Code and standards to guide conduct of print media, related media and media practitioners.
The bill mandates media houses to be members of the press council or be liable to “conviction or to a fine of five million naira or a term of three years’ imprisonment or both and to an additional fine of twenty thousand naira for every day the offense continues.”
This protest from Nigerian media houses is expected to continue up until the 14th of July. According to a statement signed by Feyi Smith, on behalf of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), the July 14th publication will explain why and what prompted the activities of the two previous days.