The Senate yesterday dismissed insinuations that the ongoing efforts by the National Assembly to amend the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act and other media laws are a ploy to gag the media and stifle freedom of expression.
It said it is not possible for anyone, including the National Assembly to attempt to stifle the media.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, said in Abuja at the opening of a two-day capacity building programme for media aides to principal officers of the National Assembly that the current efforts to amend the NBC Act and other relevant laws should not be misinterpreted as an attempt to stifle freedom of speech and free press.
He, however, said while freedom of speech is an inalienable right of the people and effectively captured in the 1999 Constitution as altered, there is the need to ensure that some regulations are put in place to prevent abuse of such rights as exhibited by a few media establishments and individuals in recent times.
He stated that the current attempt to amend the NBC Act and the Press Council Act is to improve and sanitise the media industry and not to stifle the civic space.
He added that the roles of media aides are rooted in journalism and a fact that cannot be denied is that the country needs viable and well-informed media personnel as intermediaries between the government and the governed.
Ajibola reiterated that media aides are, by the nature of their job schedule, the repository of the “secrets” of their principals and that their job schedule cuts across policy-making and projection of their principals’ images.
According to him, media aides’ roles are more sensitive than those of other aides because they are the mirror through which their principals are assessed by the public.
He charged the participants to be wary of journalists performing their duties and to always be mindful of their watchword when they are fielding questions from journalists, particularly on issues that may likely involve their principals.
He, however, warned politicians not to reduce their media aides to tools to further their political interests.
He said: “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 realise that media aides have so much to offer if we allow them to function strictly within the context of their engagement and that 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.”
He harped on the important role of media assistants, saying: “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 also praised the media aides for being the catalyst for the relative peace, integration, and cooperation being currently witnessed by the National Assembly and the executive.