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Groups warn Imo Assembly against passage of anti-media bill


A coalition of civil society organisations at the weekend vehemently rejected a bill seeking to gag the media in the Imo House State of Assembly.

They demanded that the sponsors, Ugonna Ozuruigbo and 17 others, should withdraw it on the floor of the 27-member House and not at a press conference.

Executive Director of Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights (CCIDESOR), Emeka Ononamadu, who addressed journalists in Owerri, condemned the contents of the bill titled: “A Law to Repeal and Re-enact the Newspaper Law of Eastern Region of Nigeria, Law No. 24 of 1955 and Newspaper Law Edict No. 3 of 1984 and Other Matters Connected Thereto.”

He stressed that if the bill was passed and signed into law, the press would be gagged in the state. Ononamadu said the bill was not necessary as the constitution of Nigeria had taken care of it and that press freedom was sacrosanct globally.

Also, Executive Director of Media Initiative Against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC), Dr. Walter Duru, in a statement issued in Owerri, said the group had concluded plans to engage 100,000 men and women to protest against the bill meant to gag the media.

He described the bill as anti-masses aimed at consolidating fraud and misrule in the state.

Duru, who is also Chairman, Board of Governors, Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria, vowed that the group would do everything necessary to stop the bill.

Other organisations and their heads at the briefing included Tony Ayoka, Programme Director of Habitat Care; Nwele Ifeanyi, Managing Director of Anma Development Foundation and Nwosu Godfrey, Convener of Citizens Accountability Assembly, Ngor Opkala.

Ononamadu, however, noted that the bill seeks to compel Imo people who want to register any newspaper to provide the residential address of the publisher and his printer, which must be submitted to the state government.

He also wondered why the bill demands that Church bulletins and other printed materials by individuals should be submitted to the state before circulation, among other provisions. He described the entire bill as anti-people.

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