KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY
THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
JUNE 3, 2002
Honourable Members of House of Representatives,
The Honorable Minister of Information and National Orientation,
Distinguished Chief Executives,
Representatives of various Media Bodies and Managers of Public
Eminent Members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my honour and privilege to present this address on this very important occasion of the Workshop on Media Laws organized by the Senate Committee on Information in collaboration with the Nigerian Press Council.
It has been three years of the country’s new democratic experience. We have toddled and fallen just as any toddler learning to walk. It takes years of efforts to develop into a mature democratic and pluralistic culture. Nigeria is on the march to graceful democratic adulthood that will be adored because of her virtues of transparency, accountability, integrity, equity and fairness.
The media is central to this transformation because of its useful roles of informing, educating and mobilizing the people to take active part in the decision-making process. The power of the media is, therefore, enormous and far-reaching. Governments, since the colonial era and until this time, have seen the media as sometimes helpful, sometimes dangerous but always an indispensable institution for social control.
Several laws have been enacted by the colonial authority, civil and military administrations to moderate or even curb or control the media for the narrow objectives of state policy. The Nigerian media has always stridently fought for its independence.
The country’s statute book is replete with such media laws as:
- The Newspaper Ordnance of 1917
- Official Secrets Act No. 29 of 1963 and Official Secrets (Amendment) Act No. 30 of 1962.
- Defamatory and Offensive Publication Act of 1966
- Printing Press Regulations Act 1964
- Section 58 of the Criminal Code Act of 1988 (Power to Prohibit Importation of Publications)
- Section 59 of the Criminal Code Act of 1958
- Section 51 of the Criminal Code
- (Sedition) Treason and treasonable Offence Decree No. 85 of 1993
- National Archives Act
- Offensive Publications (Proscription) Decree No. 85 of 1993; and many others unlisted.
As I have reiterated in my several encounters with the media, whether as professional groups, individuals or media houses, the Senate is committed to the repeal or review of media restrictive laws in conformity with democratic norms.
I would like to recall that at the Annual General Meeting of the Nigeria Union of Journalists held last year in Lagos, some of the issues raised include an appeal to the National Assembly to pass a law compelling anybody setting up a media house to deposit certain amount of money so that if he fails to pay the salaries of his staff the money would be used to pay them. It was also stated at the forum that a law should be promulgated to ensure that only media practitioners are granted permission to set up media houses.
I did promise then, and I am reiterating it now, that the National Assembly shall do everything within its power to provide the enabling.