Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, have thrown their weight behind press freedom.
They spoke on Monday, July 12, in Abuja at the House of Representatives Press Corps’ Annual Dinner and Award ceremonies with the theme “Recognising Good Governance and Legislative Excellence in the Face of Adversity”.
Gbajabiamila assured that he would not be a party to any bill that sought to gag the media, saying that any attempt to do that amounts to silencing the voice of the people which the media represents.
He said: “I will not be part of any bill that will seek to gag the press, no bill will come to the floor of the house that seeks to gag the press because the press is supposed to be the voice of the people.
“However, there is press freedom and there is freedom of expression; it is important for Nigerians to listen to one another and understand each other so that we can make progress as a nation.
“There is nowhere in the world where freedom of expression in absolute, freedom of expression is limited to the extent that it does not affect another person’s freedom.
“That is made abundantly clear in the Constitution itself. If you go to section 45, it states the freedom of expression you have is limited for sake of security, it is written in black and white”.
On his part, Governor Diri said the importance of a free press in a democracy cannot be over-emphasised as it plays a key role in the development process.
Diri, who was confered with the award of “Pride of the House”, expressed joy over the development of the Nigerian Press over the decades, noting however that there was still room for improvement.
He thanked the House of Reps Press Corps for the award, saying it would spur him to do more and restated his belief in the unity of Nigeria built on the principles of justice and equity.
The governor called for a reconciliatory mode of governance to right the obvious wrongs that have polarised the country.
“I am happy that my colleagues in the House still recognise our efforts. I am happy that they have their eagle eyes on me and our state and it would spur us to more action.
“I was actually shocked when I saw the level of what we have done recorded by the House of Representatives Press Corps. That is why we always advocate for freedom of the press. There is nowhere there is absolute freedom but we must allow the press to be free and open.
“I believe that this is a great country. I believe in the unity of this country but the proviso is that there must always be justice and equity”, he said.