By Henry Umoru, ABUJA
THE Senate said, Monday, it was not in anyway contemplating gagging the media. The Upper Chamber also said it was not possible for any entity, including the 9th National Assembly, to even attempt to stiffle the media industry in Nigeria.
According to the Senate, while freedom of speech is an inalienable rights of the people and effectively captured in the 1999 Constitution; there is need to ensure that some regulations are put in place to prevent reckless and irresponsible use of such rights as had been exhibited by a few media establishments and individuals in recent times in the country.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja on the sidelines of a two-day capacity building training for media aides to principal officers of the National Assembly, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central, said the current efforts to amend the NBC Act and other relevant laws should not be misinterpreted by people as moves to gag freedom of speech and free press in Nigeria.
He said the current attempt to amend the NBC Act and the Press Council Act was to improve and sanitize and not to stifle the civic space.
He said: “The media cannot be gagged in Nigeria, we have one of the most thrIving media in the world. For the fact that you regulate the activities of the media like the radio, television does not mean you are gagging the media. Media cannot be gagged anywhere in the world.”
Earlier in his remarks to declare open the workshop, Senator Basiru said the role of media aides was rooted in journalism, adding that the fact that could not be denied was that the country needed viable and well-informed media personnel as intermediaries between the government and the governed.
He reiterated media aides were, by the very nature of their job schedule, the repository of the “secrets” of their principals and that their job schedule cut across policy making and projection of their principals’ images.
According to him, their roles are more sensitive than those of other aides because they are the mirror through which their principals are assessed by the public.
The Senate spokesperson admonished the participants to be very wary of “journalists” performing their duties and always allow caution to be their watchword when fielding questions from journalists, particularly on issues that might involve their principals.
He, however, sounded a note of warning to the political class not to reduce their media aides to tools to further their political interests.
“As politicians, we do not really acquaint ourselves with the important nature of the job description of media aides, hence we fail to maximise the benefits derivable from them. It is high time we realised that media aides have so much to offer if we allow them to function strictly within the context of their engagement.
‘’The political class should not turn media aides to attack dogs that are let loose on others, which may not be in sync with their point of view or even of different political inclinations.
“Undoubtedly, media aides are stabilising factors in the polity, they have the onerous task of mitigating tension in the society through their releases on behalf of their principals.
“The political class must accept the fact that media aides have so much to contribute in the area of mitigation of societal tensions in all ramifications, if allowed and given the necessary support,’’ he said.
In his remarks, the Director-General, NILDS, and organisers of the workshop, Abubakar Sulaiman, shared similar opinion with Ajibola when he said there was urgent need to provide some levels of check on “ a culture of misinformation” under the guise of freedom of speech.
In his paper, titled ‘’Communication with Tact and Diplomacy”, Political Science lecturer, from Igbinedion University, Okada, Benin City, Professor Adeolu Akande, emphasized the need for media aides to master the act of communicating and convincing their audience without generating unnecessary controversies that could further complicate matters for their principals.
His position was in line with submissions of the Senate spokesman who cautioned media aides to be circumspect with the communication they push out and to always see themselves as catalyst in the relative peace “enjoyed” in the ninth Senate.