Can a printing press read materials submitted by its clients before publishing? Can the press refuse to print if it finds out that certain aspects of the materials for printing is repugnant to the interest of the owner, even when there is an agreement? Would that amount to press censorship?
These and many more questions would be answered when Shophar Nigeria Limited, publishers of Business Eye, approaches a court of law over breach of contractual agreement between it and Global Publishing Plus, its former printer. The magazine is seeking legal action against the publishing firm, after it refused to print an edition of the publication, because a portion of the cover story was considered offensive to the interest of the owner of the printing press.
The said publication, the week 24 edition of the magazine, with the cover, “In God's Name Plc” was about the growing number of churches competing for spaces with business concerns in major cities across the country. The story had listed a number of churches including Christ Embassy, founded by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, owner of Global Publishing Plus.
Semenitari, editor-in-chief of the magazine, told MR that the drama leading to the seizure of the magazine's materials started on December 12th, when Business Eye's creative director, Mr. Victor Omo-Amayo submitted the materials for that week's edition with the hope of coming to pick the materials on December 15 for distribution to its agents. But, less than 12 hours to the collection of the magazine, Mr. Kayode Olurombi, Global Plus's marketing manager called her office informing them that his company would not print that particular edition because a portion in the cover story was considered offensive to the interest of the owner of the company.
According to her, the portion in question had read: “in many cities in Nigeria, factory sites, warehouses and other business concerns are fast giving way to churches. In Lagos for instance, the contest to buy up every available sites, including closed down factories is even more intense among churches like Chris Oyakhilome's Christ Embassy and Christ Okotie's Household of God. Around the Oregun Industrial axis in Lagos, the churches are buying up almost everything in a desperate effort to assert dominance over the area”.
Although, the edition was later published, she said they lost between N900, 000 and N1m saying, by refusing to print the magazine and getting the information across to them late, Global Plus had not only breached the contract between the two companies but also engaged in press censorship in obvious contravention of Article 19 Declaration of Human Rights and Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
To further buttress her claims, she said Global Plus approached them and adviced that in order for the material to be published, the said portion must be esponged. She also said that her organization is planning to institute a legal action against Global Plus. However, when Media Review contacted Mr. Olurombi at the Oregun Industrial Estate office of the organization, all entreaties to get him give his company's own side of the issue proved abortive, this he hinged on his company's organizational policy. In his words: “nothing happened between my organization and Business Eye. We have a good working relationship with all our customers. If there is any issue to talk about, we discuss it within ourselves without allowing third parties to get involved”, he said. Semenitari, however, maintained that there was no agreement reached between both parties to suggest that an amicable settlement had been reached. She noted that Global Plus has not in any way shown remorse over the breach of subsisting contractual agreement between them. She also added that efforts at retrieving the CD material submitted by her organization were frustrated by the printing firm.
To underscore her company's resolve to see that justice is done in this case, the company published an addendum in the edition, saying: “What Global Plus did to us amounted to press censorship from the most ridiculous and unexpected quarters and we promise to use everything within our powers to fight this act of lawlessness. For us, the battle line has been drawn”.
As the case stands now, except a miracle happens, both parties are expected in court to argue their cases.