Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki said on Monday that he will never support any attempt for the government to regulate media activities in the country as he believes strongly in a self-regulated media.
Saraki, while receiving the National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Alhaji Waheed Odusile and members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) on a visit to this office said the 8th Senate would support all programmes of the NUJ aimed at repositioning the media to perform its constitutional duties responsibly.
“The things you have said this afternoon are the things that are very important which we must address if we are serious about the role that journalism and the press play in our society because the change we want to bring to the country is not just on the economic or social aspect but even in the moral and ethical structure of our democracy. The press has a key role to play. And if the press has not got their own house in order it is very unlikely that they can play that role.
“For the first time, I am hearing an NUJ President saying that they have problems which we have always known that you did but nobody was ready to say you had problems.
“The first thing you talked about is for a law to recognize that journalism is a profession. You are indeed professionals but unfortunately as you said many people have joined this profession and in the process they have done more harm than good to the profession.
“In my own profession, if you are a quack doctor, you cannot last because the system would get rid of you but unfortunately in your profession the quacks even last more. What are those laws that we need to pass to make the press more efficient?
“I am happy with what you said that there must be laws to help journalists to regulate journalism practice and I want to say one thing, I will not support any government regulation.
“I think you should be self regulated. You should self-regulate yourself but I agree with you entirely that we must have those laws that will provide that enabling environment for self-regulation and also to ensure that only professionals come into your profession and not anybody that is looking for money”, he said while urging the NUJ to quickly forward a comprehensive proposal on the areas they want the National Assembly to help them legislate upon.
Earlier, Odusile told the Senate President that the visit was meant to brief the leadership of the Senate on the activities of the NUJ since the new executive was elected in July this year.
He said the meeting was equally meant to seek the support of the Senate for a new legislation to professionalize the journalism profession and also to empower the NUJ to regulate the practice of journalism in the country.
He said the measures have become necessary to ensure that journalism in Nigeria is accorded its rightful place and that journalists are given their rightful due in the scheme of things, to be able to carry out their constitutional mandate.
He said: “We are not entirely satisfied with the way journalism is being practiced in Nigeria because of some of the constraints we have, one of which is that today there is no law in this country that recognizes journalism as a profession. Today journalism in the country is an open-ended affair, as such, anybody who can speak English, good or bad, can come in and go out at will.
“This state of affairs has bred quacks which has become a problem to us but because we lack the requisite laws we find it difficult to regulate the profession and to be able to flush out the quacks.” He said the leadership of the NUJ is putting up a bill that will address the anomaly bedeviling the profession when passed into law.
He said once the bill is ready in the first quarter of next year, the NUJ will partner with the National Assembly to ensure that it is expeditiously considered and passed. “We are desirous of eliminating quacks from the practice of Journalism in Nigeria but we are powerless without the enabling laws”, he said.
He decried a situation where practitioners in the media are owed backlog of salaries without any repercussion for their employers and called on the National Assembly to initiate laws that would provide for a salary structure for workers in the media as applicable to the medical, teaching and other professionals in the Civil Service.
He also called on the National Assembly to ensure that any aspect of the Frivolous Petitions Bill that will attempt to gag the press is expunged before its passage into law.