The Nigerian Senate on Monday said its proposed Media Law aimed at sanctioning people who falsely criticize government, institutions and individuals, was completely misunderstood by the public.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi, made this known in a statement he issued in Abuja.
According to him, the Bill is intended at protecting all individuals and institutions, including journalists and social media users, as the senate is committed to freedom of speech and a fully inclusive and participatory democracy.
The statement reads:
“Some of the comments on the bill emanated from misconception and misunderstanding of the objective. The eighth Senate is totally committed to protecting the liberty of all Nigerians and the independence of the Senate and the legislative arm of government as we deepen our democratic journey.
“Those for or against the Anti-Frivolity bill or parts of the bill would have the opportunity to shape its final outcome as there is an elaborate process which the bill must undergo before it becomes a law.
“The process of passing a bill is comprehensive and provide for inputs to be taken from all and sundry and the fist stage is merely to read the short title of the bill. The second stage is purely to debate the general principles.
“The next stage is committal of the bill to appropriate committee or committees for further detailed legislative action where the details, intendment and clause by clause implications of the bill is dissected by the committee.
“This stage also involves public hearing in which members of the public, civil society, non governmental organizations and all interested parties for or against the bill have the opportunity to shape and influence its content.
“The outcome from this committee stage is what will be finalized and then represented to the chamber for clause by clause consideration and approval or disapproval by the Senate. Thereafter, if the bill is approved, then the clean version of the bill is forwarded to the House of Representatives for concurrence or otherwise.
“The anti-frivolity bill will go through the whole hog and there is no intention to make the process of passing this bill any different.
“Accordingly, the Senate wants to re-assure the public about this. So, all those who are either for or against this bill or its part and any other one have ample opportunities to reshape it.
“The Eighth Senate is conscious of its responsibility to the people and will not do anything that will stifle participation and inclusion.
“We will always ensure we pass laws which meets best practices across the world and indeed democratic scrutiny. Suggesting that the senate wants to pass a law not even practiced in China etc is being mischievous.
“This Senate is people-centred, pro-poor and participatory. We will always act in the best interest of the citizenry. In this regard, we are totally committed to performing our duties and discharging our responsibilities without let or hindrance.
“All those spreading hate campaigns as a result of the Anti-frivolity bill, hauling insults at and making derogatory comments on Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the institution of the Senate are advised to key into the elaborate legislative process that a bill must pass through before becoming law if they are interested in shaping the outcome of the bill.
“This is the right way to go and part of the change we all aspire for our democracy.”
The Street Journal recalls that the proposed law entitled: “A Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected therewith”, was sponsored by Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah, APC, Kebbi State.
The Bill has attracted outright public condemnation and widespread criticism from members of the public after it expressly passed through second reading at the Senate last week owing to its being perceived as a subterfuge to clamp down on critics of government and lawmakers.