Press Council Bill: Freedom of expression limited, insists Gbajabiamila

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Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila has doubled down on the need to regulate the Nigerian media through the Press Council Bill, insisting that freedom of expression is limited.

Mr Gbajabiamila reacting to calls by Nigerian newspapers and other media organisations to expunge the bill, which sought to regulate the media, stated, “I will not be part of any bill that will seek to gag the press. No bill will come to the floor of the house that seeks to gag the press because the press is supposed to be the voice of the people.

“However, there is press freedom, and there is freedom of expression. It is important for Nigerians to listen to one another and understand each other so that we can make progress as a nation.

“There is nowhere in the world where freedom of expression is absolute. Freedom of expression is limited to the extent that it does not affect another person’s freedom.”

According to him, the media must be regulated to preserve national security.

“That is made abundantly clear in the constitution itself. If you go to section 45, it states the freedom of expression you have is limited for the sake of security. It is written in black and white,” he noted.

The speaker said he had directed proponents of the bill to engage stakeholders and resolve grey areas, but the report he got was that they wanted the bill thrown out completely.

Mr Gbajabiamila claimed that people wanted good governance but did not want to be regulated, stressing that regulation was a key component of good governance.

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“We cannot let every institution run amok. The executive is regulated. The judiciary, to a large extent, is regulated. The legislature is regulated. Institutions are meant to be regulated.

“There is not one institution that is above the law, especially an institution that is meant to be the fourth estate of the realm, whose utterances or writing can make or break even a government,’’ he explained.

In June, Shehu Sani warned the National Assembly against sustaining the anti-democracy rhetoric of President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime.

Mr Sani, a former lawmaker and rights activist, urged the parliament not to engage in actions that could further harm Nigeria’s floundering democracy.

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