The Nigeria Press Council (NPC) consists of bodies that wield enormous influence on the operations of media houses and behaviour of journalists, and other media workers. These component bodies include the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), educational institutions involved in the training of journalists, and representatives of the general public.
First of all what is a press council?
A Press Council is a body that investigates complaints from members of the public against the press and also engages in protection of press freedom. It could be described as the watchdog of watchdogs, since its primary function is to monitor activities of the mass media. Through its efforts, it fosters a sense of professionalism in the media by setting and ensuring adherence to standards that should be met by practitioners in the media industry.
As aipce.net, a press council has two basic roles. First is the first is the administration of an agreed Code of Practice and the investigation of complaints from members of the public about editorial content in the media. The second is the defence of press freedom. However, some Press Councils tend to focus on the first function but in doing so must balance the rights of the individual and the rights of the press to freedom of expression.
Press Councils are self-regulatory bodies set up by the media themselves – although they are normally given a high degree of operational independence in order to maintain public confidence. They oversee Codes of Practice which set out both professional standards for journalists, and a set of rules under which people featured in the news media can complain if something is inaccurate or intrusive (aipce.net).
These Codes generally contain ethical rules that are over and above legal requirements. Press Councils represent a form of corporate responsibility which allow people to complain for free and without legal representation, and can help generate trust in the quality of news (aipce.net).
Press Councils are very essential in the society because they promote responsible journalism. They ensure that the mass media play their social responsibility to the public.
According UNESCO, a press council stands for good, responsible and reliable journalism. It promotes an ethical code for journalists and investigates complaints about a breach of this code. When abiding to a press council, media professionals declare their dedication to the values of objectivity, plurality and democracy.
A press council is crucial in ensuring ethical, responsible and responsive journalism in any society.
The Nigerian Press Council
The Nigerian Press Council (NPC) is a parastatal established by the Nigerian Press Council Act No. 85 of 1992 (as amended in Act 60 of 1999) to ensure the maintenance of high professional standards for the Nigerian Press. Like most other Press Councils around the world, the functions of the Nigerian Press Council revolve around ethical standards.
The Council, therefore, has as one of its major functions, the duty to enquire into complaints against the Press from the Public and also into Complaints from the Press about the conduct of persons or organizations towards the Press. Simply put, the Council serves as a buffer between the Press and the public (Nigerian Press Council).
Brief History: The birth of the Nigeria Press Council can be traced to the promulgation of Decree 31 of 1978 by the General Olusegun Obasanjo military regime. Attempts to establish this self regulatory body for the Nigerian Press started decades ago with the setting up of a commission named the Ekineh Commission. The Commission which was set up after a distinguished Nigerian attorney by the General Yakubu Gowon government was to study the future of the Nigerian media. It however did not make its findings public and so it was an exercise in futility. The establishment of the council was opposed by the Nigerian Press Organization made up of NUJ, NPAN and NGE on the grounds that the provisions of the council were too pro-government. The rejection led to the establishment of another council by the Ibrahim Babangida led administration in 1988 called Nigeria Media Council through Decree 59 of 1988. This second council was seen as an improvement on the first, reducing the perceived heavy government influence on the council. The Nigerian Media Council was aborted largely because journalists were a bit apprehensive by the seemingly totalitarian powers conferred on the Council. However, the Nigeria Media Council also met stiff opposition from some media professionals who saw some loopholes in the council, leading to the establishment of another body renamed the Nigeria Press Council in 1992 by the General Babangida administration through Decree 85 of 1992. The re-established Nigeria Press Council has remained operational till date.
Functions: The NPC was established to play the following basic functions as contained in the Press Council Decree: (a) Enquiring into complaints about the conduct of the press and the conduct of any person or organization towards the press and exercising in respect of the complaints the powers conferred upon it under the Decree; (b) Researching into contemporary press development and engaging in updating press documentation; (c) Fostering the achievement and maintenance of high professional standard by the press; (d) Reviewing and advising on developments likely to hamper press freedom or free flow of information from the press to the public; (e) ensuring the protection of rights and privileges of journalists in lawful performance of their professional duties (Nwabueze, 2014).