A CIVIL society group has petitioned  Commissioner Pansy Tlakula,  the African Union's Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to “urgently intervene" to block a new bill aiming to regulate Nigeria's media, writes Zacheaus Somorin in ThisDay.

The group is Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). In the petition dated 18 November 2009 and signed by SERAP Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation posited  that  its ''investigation reveals that the Nigerian government is behind a Bill for an Act to Provide for the Repeal of the Nigerian Press Council Act 1992 and Establish the Nigerian Press and Practice of Journalism Council''.

Among others, the new Bill, which  is now before the National Assembly, requires members of the Nigerian Press and Practice of Journalism Council to swear to an oath of secrecy.

 The bill also requires the licensing of journalists and the pre-qualification examinations. It provides for the appointment of a chairman, who will be appointed and dismissed by the President on the recommendation of the Minister of Information and Communi-cations, a political appointee of the President.

“We are seriously concerned that if passed into law the bill, it would contravene  Nigeria’s international legal obligations, and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a signatory.

The bill also directly violates Section 22 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, which requires the Press to hold the government accountable to the people,” the organization added.

Click here to read the full report, posted on ThisDay's website.