Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, has on Friday, June 25, 2021, refuted the claim that the federal government sponsored the bills purportedly meant to stifle the press.
He said some of those attacking the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and Nigerian Press Council (NPC) bills did not show up during public hearing on the legislation.
Speaking in an interview with NAN on Friday, Mohammed said the bills are private member bills sponsored by a lawmaker in the national assembly.
The bills, sponsored by Olusegun Odebunmi, a lawmaker from Oyo state, seek to amend the NBC and NPC Acts.
The proposed amendment to the NBC law seeks to put online broadcasters under the purview of the commission while that of the NPC seeks “harsh punishment” for defaulting media organisations and journalists.
Mohammed said those falsely accusing the federal government and misinforming the public on the bills had a chance to make their contributions but rather than show up during the public hearing, they chose to play to the gallery.
“First, let me say how disappointed I am that those who have been berating me on these bills have been doing so on a false premise that the federal government had sponsored bills to stifle the press,” he said.
“It baffles me that those who rushed to the media to slam the government didn’t even try to verify the facts.
“I was invited, as the minister of information and culture, to make my contributions, just like many other stakeholders at the public hearing.
“It was an opportunity for stakeholders to make their input into the bills. I attended and made my contributions.
“The Nigerian Press Organisation, which represented the Nigerian Union of Journalists, the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, appeared there merely for appearance’s sake.
“Instead of strongly stating their reservations on the bill on the Nigerian press council, they were more interested in stopping the hearing, hinging their argument on the case at the supreme court on the press council.
“It is a shame that some of us love democracy so much but hate the fine details of democracy and its processes.
“These critics will rather play to the gallery than do the needful. Why didn’t these critics show up at the much-publicised public hearing on these bills?
“Why have they, instead, opted to go hysterical in the media and to point accusing fingers at the federal government as the sponsor of the bills when indeed that is not true?”
The minister advised the critics of the bills to engage the chairman of the house of representatives committee on information, national orientation, ethics and values to convey their reservations.
He said they should stop engaging in “cheap blackmail and misinformation”, saying “you cannot like democracy and abhor its processes”.