Source Disclosure Clause in FOI Bill Riles Nigerian Press

19 March 2011

Nigerian media groups are lambasting a provision inserted by the Nigerian Senate into its version of the freedom of information bill that would require journalists to disclose their sources , according to media reports such as one in The Nation.

The president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Garba Muhammed, called it a “watered down bill.” The Nation reported further, “He said the clause that mandates journalists to disclose their sources is; `uncalled for and detrimental to democracy.’ “

The bill passed the Senate March and now goes to a joint Senate-House harmonization committee to work out differences with the House bill. (See previous article.)

The Nation further reported that Garba said:

“I think the passage of the FoI Bill is a good development as expected but it is regrettable to know that some sections have been watered down; this is not our expectation. The issue of journalists disclosing their sources is uncalled for, it should not arise, and it is an issue that puts the national security at stake.”

Garba said the NUJ would not relent. “We are going to call a stakeholders meeting to address those sections not favourable to the media because they are not favourable to democracy. We are still waiting for the harmonisation of the bill between the House of Representatives and the Senate. We will pursue it to a logical conclusion and if they refuse to revert it, we will present it to the incoming legislature for amendment.”

The president of the Nigeria Guild of Editors(NGE), Gbenga Adefaye, also urged elimination of the provision, saying: “The senators know it is a breach of confidence for journalists to disclose their sources. That may be done under a military regime but we are in a democracy. It is generally unacceptable. Journalists would rather go to jail than disclose their sources. We do not expect that clause to be in the law eventually. That section should be expunged.”

Lanre Arogundade, the director of the International Press Centre (IPC), told The Nation that the section mandating disclosure of  sources makes the FOI bill “worthless.”

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