Founder of One Love Family, Satguru Maharaj Ji, has warned against attempts to gag the press in the country, saying the present democratic dispensation can only be sustained when there is press freedom.
Maharaj who gave the warning while addressing journalists in Ibadan to mark 25 years of remarkable declaration on Nigeria as a war-free country, said the recent detention of a reporter with the Premium Times, Samuel Ogundipe and effort by the Senate to pass into law the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) bill 2018, should call for concern from well meaning Nigerians, stating that the country cannot afford to truncate its hard fought democracy.
He noted that the country cannot afford to go back to the military era where press freedom was a luxury, noting that journalists as watchdogs of the society who are in position to hold the organs of government accountable should not be subjected to unnecessary interference in the discharge of their duty.
While lauding the release of Ogundipe by the police after much criticisms by the public, he saluted the courage exhibited by the President of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nduka Obiagbena, in leading other stakeholders to vehemently oppose the proposed NPC bill 2018.
According to him, the proposed bill which has gone through second reading in the Senate but rejected by NPAN, Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), is nothing but unnecessary interference towards gagging the press, insisting that there are already sufficient laws to regulate the practice of journalism in the country.
Maharaj maintained that rather than dissipate energy on what will not benefit the nation’s democracy, the Senate as a legislative house should concern itself with making laws that will accelerate making dividends of democracy available to the generality of Nigerians who are daily loosing faith in our elected leaders.
He said, “The time has come for all well meaning Nigerians to raise concern on various attempts both by the executive and the legislature in muzzling press freedom such that journalists will be under unnecessary pressure to discharge the duty expected of them. Nigeria cannot afford to go back to the military era where press freedom is nothing but a luxury.
“It is therefore important to laud Mr. Obiagbena for the courage he showed alongside other leaders of the media to stand up against the proposed NPC bill 2018 by the Senate. It only mean that he and others will at any time rise up to defend their profession against needless bill as well as save the nation’s democracy which was brought into place by journalists and other stakeholders from been truncated. ”
He nevertheless charged Nigerians to actively participate in the coming general elections in 2019 by not only register and get their Permanent Voters Card (PVC), but also go out to vote, stating that it is an opportunity to elect credible leaders and send packing those who are more interested in looting the nation’s commonwealth