Business Hilights
Tracking Nigeria's Headline Business News Online

NITDA Code Tramples on Media Rights, Usurps National Assembly Powers – GOCOP

The Guild of Corporate Online Publishers, GOCOP, is a body of online publishing organizations, run by professional journalists with backgrounds in Broadcasting, Print and New Media. We are a self-regulating professional body and we subscribe to the Ethics of the Journalism profession which hold facts, truth, fairness and balanced reporting as sacred in the discharge of our duties. GOCOP, as Body of Professionals, has put in place structures for effective peer review and regulation of its members. GOCOP has several Committees including the Disciplinary Committee/Ombudsman, which has the sole responsibility of checking the excesses of the Guild’s members and affords the public an avenue to seek redress in case of unprofessional conduct by any of our members. This shows that GOCOP as a body of Online Journalists takes its responsibility of self-regulation very seriously.

The GOCOP is also fully guided by relevant statutes which govern other stakeholders in the Nigerian media, including the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, and the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, both of which some of us are members.

We state categorically that our practice and profession draw legitimacy, powers and rights from Sections 22 and 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended in 2011. Specifically, Sections 22 of the Constitution cede to GOCOP members the privilege to “at all times be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.”

Observations:

We observed with concern that the recent “Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries” issued by the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA *in alignment with

some “Authorised Government Agency” namely Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), or any supposed agency authorized; has continued to generate controversy and censure from media stakeholders and civil society organisations, CSOs.

The largely christened the NITDA Code lists its objectives to include inter alia: “set out measures to combat online harms such as disinformation and misinformation.” It also seeks to “Adopt and apply a co-regulatory approach towards implementation and compliance.”

GOCOP is worried that the NITDA Code and its prescriptions are toxic, undemocratic and a clear affront on free speech and civil liberties which the media promotes. We emphasize that this is a Constitutional responsibility which, we will not for any reason whatsoever, abdicate under the weight and encumbrance of the NITDA Practice Code.

We restate that this Code is unknown to the Constitution and against the principles of free press, free speech and civil liberties as enshrined therein.

Nigeria is a democracy, and in a democracy, it is the duty of the National Assembly (Congress or Parliament) to make laws for the promotion of good governance. While it is the duty of National Assembly to make laws, it is also the responsibility of the Judiciary to interpret the laws while the Executive is saddled with execution of the laws and allied issues of leadership.

Therefore, NITDA, an Executive agency, by issuing a Practice Code to regulate the media, has clearly over-reached itself and cannot be allowed to surreptitiously usurp the powers of the National Assembly.