By Hassan Haruna Ginsau
The committee on political parties and electoral matters at the National conference has blocked attempts by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to punish journalists who commit certain offences during electioneering.
A proposed amendment to the electoral legal framework signed by the INEC chairman Professor Attahiru Jega, recommends that not only media houses, but also officers of the establishments should be sanctioned if they commit certain offences through fines of up to N1 million or a 1-year jail term.
Speaking to newsmen on the issue, Sani Zoro who is a member of the committee, representing the Nigeria Guild of editors at the conference said the committee has thrown out the proposal “because it would have amounted to overkill.
There are enough provisions, first of all in the code of conduct, and code of practice of journalists in the country. The Nigerian press council is there as a mechanism, then the Nigerian broadcasting commission is also there. There are also regular courts, so you don’t have to come up with another law just to punish journalists,” said Zoro.
Section 100 of the document reads: “Whereas subsection (6) of section 100 of the electoral act makes provisions to sanction any media house that violates the provisions of section 100 of the electoral act, no sanction is provided similar to section 101 against principal officer of the media house involved in the crime. Provision should therefore be made to sanction principal officers and other officers of the media house involved in the crime.”
The proposed amendment goes on to recommend that section 100 be amended by substituting the existing subsection (6) with a new subsection which stipulates; “Any person who contravenes subsections (3) and (4) of this section commits an offence and upon conviction is liable: (a) in the case of a public media to a maximum fine of N500,000 in the first instance and to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 for subsequent conviction; and (b) in the case of principal officer(s) and other officer(s) of the media house to a maximum fine of N500,000 or to imprisonment for a term of 12 months”.