They call it a move to curb fake news. Others see it as a ploy to manipulate and muzzle dissenting voices in Nigeria. Especially after the #EndSARS campaigns that went viral online.
Lawmakers in Nigeria are currently pushing for the amendment of a bill that will make it illegal for anyone to practice journalism without having a media degree. These amendments are contained in a bill called ‘The Nigerian Press Council Amendment Bill, 2019.’ A bill set to bring new regulations into the Nigerian Press Act.
If the bill passes to become a law, it will have serious implications for journalists in the trade but are not holders of a media degree. Those who are likely to be most impacted are journalists within the online media space. Since generally, those in the traditional print media tend to be employees of media houses, and a media degree is usually a prerequisite to landing the job.
Nigerian Lawmakers attempts over the years to Amend the Bill
This is not the first time lawmakers in Nigeria are trying to amend the Nigerian Press Act. There have been similar attempts back in 2018 and 2019. In all those instances, the need to amend the bill has come after a nationwide uproar following major political, police, or military shortcomings.
As mentioned earlier, this latest attempt comes barely months after the #EndSARS protests. Where the local authority tried to contain demonstrations and civil unrest, but the campaign quickly went online, became viral, and took on a new life of its own. Once things go viral online, many authoritarian administrations have no choice but to shut down the internet while using intimidation tactics to dampen down the viral campaigns.
While the Nigerian authorities did not shut down the internet per se, there were many arrests, allegations of extra-judicial killings, and bank accounts freezing, among other intimidation tactics going on around.
The Nigerian Press Council Amendment Bill, 2019 sailed through its second reading this month. The bill also introduces new punishments and fines for persons found culpable of practicing journalism without a media degree.
Prolific Journalist don’t have Journalism Training Background
Ironically, the journalists who command a lot of authority in Nigeria do not have a professional training background in journalism. At least not at the very start of their journalism career. For instance:
Fisayo Soyombo – has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and has won several awards in investigative journalism.
Idri Akinbajo – is a Food Science Technology graduate, yet is the Head of Premium Times Investigative Desk with several awards to brag about.
Kiki Mordi – is said to have dropped out of the University of Benin but went ahead to bag an Emmy-nomination in journalism reporting among other several awards.
The same can be said about leading journalists across countries around the globe. Although, it remains true that the internet has made it easy for just about anyone with a laptop or a smartphone to decimate news. Therefore, it is quite right to say there is a lot of fake news floating around the internet.
However, but not all news is fake news just because it is shared or posted by someone without a journalism degree. Indeed, authoritarian governments will most likely hide behind this curtain to muzzle dissidents in their countries.