Tuesday, November 12, 2019 11:20 am
Mustapha Isah, is now the Acting President, Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE). He was elected to the position vacated by Mrs. Funke Egbemode the erstwhile President, who was recently appointed Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation in Osun State.
Mr. Isah was elected by the Standing Committee of the Guild which constituted itself into an Electoral College, invoking Article 13(4) of the Nigerian Guild of Editors Constitution. This was at the Standing Committee meeting of the Guild which took place on Friday, 8 November, 2019 at the Editors’ House, Ikeja Lagos, Nigeria.
The communique of the meeting, which announced Isah’s election also said that the Guild’s Standing Committee “discussed the state of the nation and the media and took particular note of the ongoing plans by the Federal Government of Nigeria to ‘sanitise’ the Social Media space and thereby resolved,” among others, to call on the government to rescind the decision “as such measure is in clear contravention of Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution (As amended), which guarantees every Nigerian citizen the right to “freedom of expression, including the right to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.””
Isah is currently the Head of News, Silverbird TV and Rhythm 93.7fm, Lagos. He started his journalism carrier with the defunct Tempo Magazine during the dark days of the late dictator, Gen Sani Abacha.
Isah was born in Ubuneke Ivbiaro in Owan East Local Government Area of Edo State. After his secondary school education, he proceeded to a private school in Ilesha, Osun State to study for Advanced Levels which he obtained in 1987. He then gained admission into Bendel State University, now Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, in 1988. He obtained a degree in History, Second Class Upper Division , in 1991. After his National Youth Service in 1992, he proceeded to the University of Lagos to obtain a Postgraduate Diploma in Mass Communication.
He began his journalism carrier with the defunct Tempo Magazine in 1995 , during the dark days of the late dictator, General Sani Abacha. In July 1995, Mustapha Isah joined Ray Power fm as a reporter. And in August 1998, he left Daar Communications Limited for Rhythm 93.fm as an Assistant News Editor. He then rose steadily to the position of Head of News, STV and Rhythm FM.
Mustapha Isah has held several positions in the Nigerian Guild of Editors. He was first elected as a Standing Committee member, then Assistant General Secretary . He was until his election as Acting President, the Vice President, West, of the Guild
Full text of the Communique reads:
COMMUNIQUÉ OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE MEETING OF THE NIGERIAN GUILD OF EDITORS HELD ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2019, AT EDITORS’ HOUSE, IKEJA, LAGOS STATE.
Invoking Article 13(4) of the Nigerian Guild of Editors Constitution, the Standing Committee constituted itself into an Electoral College and elected Mr. Mustapha Isah as Acting President of the Guild, to fill the vacant position of Mrs Funke Egbemode as President, upon her appointment and acceptance of offer as Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation in Osun State.
The Standing Committee discussed the state of the nation and the media and took particular note of the ongoing plans by the Federal Government of Nigeria to ‘sanitise’ the Social Media space and thereby resolved as follows:
That the Federal Government should rescind the decision to regulate the Social Media, as such measure is in clear contravention of Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution (As amended), which guarantees every Nigerian citizen the right to “freedom of expression, including the right to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
The Guild reminds the Federal Government of the dire consequences of similar attempts in the past to gag freedom of speech, as such initiatives were usually misconstrued by security agents and some public officials to harass, arrest and in most cases, illegally detain journalists and other Nigerians for holding their opinions.
Advising the Federal Government to seek ways to maximize social media to disseminate information on the activities and policies of government, rather than its current attempt to stifle it: the Guild urges the government to engage the founders and promoters of social media, namely: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter among others – to creatively find ways of sieving information disseminated through their respective channels, to curtail extremisms of violence and hate speech.
Recognising that Nigeria is already in the red zone of nations with very poor record of Press Freedom and Freedom of Speech, the Guild notes, for instance, that the 2019 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders places Nigeria in a distant 120th position among 180 nations under review. Also, in the 2019 Global Impunity Index published by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), which chronicles countries where criminal groups, politicians, government officials, and other powerful actors resort to violence to silence critical views, dissent and particularly the media, Nigeria ranks as high as the 12th position, sharing the top bracket with impunity-prone and conflict-riddled nations like Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Mexico, Pakistan etcetera.
Sadly, this is not a good profile and the Federal Government of Nigeria should not take further actions that would add to this unpleasant tar on the nation by seeking to ‘sanitise’ Social Media but, should rather build bridges and collaborations with the Nigerian media and promoters of social media. Such synergy and partnership in an Information Age, is the best way to make the most of the advantages of social media which far outweigh any perceived disadvantages.
The Guild notes that Nigeria has enough extant laws, including the Cyber Crime Act 2015, to deal with issues of ‘hate speech’ and ‘Fake News’. It urges the government to test such laws in the courts of competent jurisdictions in accordance with due process of the law rather than create another legal instrument and atmosphere that would give agents of state the latitude to harass and criminalise citizens especially journalists.
The Guild observes that in most cases, it is the officials of governments at all levels that push out Fake News and hate speech by their words and actions; stressing that it behoves government actors to check their actions and utterances.
The Guild uses this opportunity to call on government and security agencies to release forthwith all journalists being detained nationwide, as their continued detention run contrary to the grains of the Constitution.
The Guild congratulates Mrs Egbemode on her appointment.
Mustapha Isah Mary Atolagbe
Acting President General Secretary