BY AGENCY REPORTER
Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Monday defends the regulation of the Media Bill.
His argument was that if media practitioners refused to be regulated, there may be a crisis, adding that “the freedom of expression you have is limited for sake of security”.
Gbajabiamila made the assertion at an award ceremony tagged ‘Recognising Good Governance and Legislative Excellence in the Face of Adversity, in Abuja.
The speaker was reacting to calls by some stakeholders to expunge the Press Council Bill which sought to regulate the activities of media practitioners.
“We cannot let every institution run amok, the executive is regulated, the judiciary to a large extent is regulated, the legislature is regulated; institutions are meant to be regulated, there is not one institution that is above the law.
“Especially an institution that is meant to be the fourth estate of the Realm, whose utterances or writing can make or break even a government,’’ he said.
Despite this, he said he would not be a party to any bill that sought to gag media practitioners.
“I will not be part of any bill that will seek to gag the press, no bill will come to the floor of the house that seeks to gag the press because the press is supposed to be the voice of the people.
“However, there is press freedom and there is freedom of expression; it is important for Nigerians to listen to one another and understand each other so that we can make progress as a nation.
“There is nowhere in the world where freedom of expression is absolute, freedom of expression is limited to the extent that it does not affect another person’s freedom.
“That is made abundantly clear in the Constitution itself. If you go to section 45, it states the freedom of expression you have is limited for sake of security, it is written in black and white”.
The speaker said he had directed proponents of the Press Council Bill to engage stakeholders and resolve grey areas, but the report he got was that they wanted the bill thrown out completely.
He said NGOs, religious bodies, social media and professors in the universities did not want to be regulated, saying that everybody just wanted to have a free range.
He said that all Nigerians were beneficiaries of the struggles against dictatorship in the country.
According to him, when politicians fled, the journalists had nowhere to run so they stayed back, went underground to brave the odds.
“Media houses were closed, some of us paid the supreme price so that democracy can thrive.
“If we survive dictators in the past, I persuade that we will survive every attempt to stifle or repress to gag and to place a stranglehold on the constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press and expression in this country,” he said.
Recipients of the awards of excellence included, Gbajabiamila, Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Gov. Diri Douye of Bayelsa and Gov. Babjide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State.
Others were, Gov. Umara Zulum of Borno, Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi and Central Bank Governor (CBN) Mr Godwin Emefiele among others.