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Nigerian government urged to support voluntary media self-regulatory system

The International Press Institute urges Nigeria's government to support the development of a voluntary media self-regulatory system, rather than a statutory press council.

The Newspaper Proprietors' Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) in recent weeks have criticised what NPAN characterised as "a clandestine move to revive the moribund Press Council, which was an official tool used to gag the press during the military rule".

IPI Director of Communications & Public Relations Anthony Mills said: "We urge Nigeria's government, as it celebrates 14 years since the return to civilian rule, to support the media in instituting voluntary self-regulation. An effective self-regulatory system founded with the buy-in of media stakeholders would avoid lengthy and expensive court cases, improve media practices and accountability, and heighten both public perceptions of journalism and Nigeria's level of press freedom."

Originally created in 1992 while Nigeria was under military rule, the Council has been largely inactive in recent years and a federal court in 2010 ruled unconstitutional sections of the act creating it. Freedom House reported that one judge in the case called the law - which regulates media policy, including ownership, registration, and journalistic practice - "a bulwark against the free expression of opinion, ideas and views whether by individual journalists or by the press".

However, a statement posted on the Press Council's website on July 31 in response to a critical editorial by the newspaper Punch said the court decision is being held in abeyance pending an appeal.

"At the moment, the Nigerian Press Council needs no reviving as the Council, established by law, is subsisting until that law is repealed by the National Assembly or extinguished by the Judiciary", the statement said.

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