A member of the House of Representatives, Olusegun Odebunmi (APC-Oyo), has pledged speedy action on the Journalism Enhancement Bill before the National Assembly.
Odebunmi, who is the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation Ethics and Values, made the pledge in a statement on Monday in Abuja.
He said that the bill proposed a minimum entry point for editorial staff and conditions of service commensurate with what obtains at the Federal Civil Service.
Odebunmi who represents Ogo Oluwa/Surulere Federal Constituency of Oyo, said that the bill, when passed into law would ensure payment of hazard allowance to journalists, among other benefits.
“The bill also states that the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) should ensure the implementation of the eligibility criteria for entry into and practice of journalism in Nigeria, as contained in the Nigerian Press Council Decree No 85 of 1992.
“All professionals and trade unions of media workers and owners notably the NUJ, the NGE, the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and NPAN should partner the Nigerian Press Council and make it mandatory for all potential journalists to register with the relevant professional and regulatory bodies after fulfilling a basic requirement and be accredited to practise.
“They must also sign to uphold the code of conduct and ethics for Nigerian journalists,” he said.
Contrary to claims that the ongoing amendment of the Nigerian Press Council Act was sponsored by the Federal Government, the legislator said he was the sponsor of the bill.
He said that the allegation that the bill was sponsored by Federal Government through the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, with the aim to gag the media was not true.
“Most of the people commenting on the bill have no knowledge of it. The bill was not sponsored by the Federal Government; even the Minister of Information was only aware few days to the public hearing.
“He did not have any input on the bill; it is my idea because I feel we should not wait for the Supreme Court judgment to do what is right by amending the existing controversial law,” he said.
Odebumi maintained that stakeholders in the media industry have the right to reject the clause that empowers the minister to approve the Code of Conduct as the bill is still undergoing scrutiny before the House.
He called on stakeholders to come together and come up with a code of conduct that would be approved to guide and protect the voiceless.