A government that claims to be democratic and wants to regulate the media, should not be seen to be antagonistic to the same people whose interest it’s trying to protect. This was the position of media practitioners during a discussion on ‘Regulating the Media’ on Channels TV Sunrise programme on Saturday, June 26, 2021.
Former Guardian News Editor now Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Prime Business, Dr. Marcel Mbamalu; former General Manager of Radio Nigeria, Mrs. Funke-Treasure Durodola; and the General Manager and Editor-in-Chief of Vanguard Media Limited, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, were guests on the TV programme.
Mbamalu described the plan by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to regulate the media as a reenactment of the infamous Decree 4 of his military government in 1984, which granted the government power to shut down media houses and imprison journalists for writing articles that the government deemed ridiculed or disrespected its officials.
Adefaye said what the present government was attempting by regulating the media was not different from what military administrators have done in the past. “They are trying to manage your thoughts and that is dangerous and we cannot afford that. We must not allow that.”
Mbamalu said the government’s plan to “monitor content” was a pointer that they were interested in managing the people’s thoughts. According to Durodola, this interest in what Nigerians say was because the government was afraid of “alternative voices”.
According to Adefaye, in a democratic society like Nigeria, the way out was “self-regulation by professionals who understand the business”. His position was backed up by Durodola who admitted that “there is a need to do more, for stakeholders to come together and fashion out means to check fake news and weed out unprofessional from the industry.”
Commenting further, Durodola said rather than the government asking media practitioners to yield editorial control and the people’s right to express themselves, what they should be saying really is, “Nigerian media we want you to look inwards and better regulate themselves.”
Mbamalu said the media must be left to serve the interest of the people, and that any attempt to gag online and traditional media will be counterproductive.