ANALYSIS OF CHALLENGES FACING FREEDOM OF INFORMATION IN NIGERIA
Background of the Study
The Press is the moulder of the society. Although this fact has been
lashed with numerous criticisms, we cannot deny the fact that the press shapes the society. Most journalists are aware of this, so they determine, even to the extent of sacrificing their lives, to give the society what it desires and what it needs.
The reporter who is scampering to meet a politician who has just alighted from an airplane; the reporter who is on a wired boat sailing into a remote mangrove to find out the extent of damage flood has wrecked in the area is trying to satisfy the society by informing the members of the society on what is happening around them.
The function of news gathering and news dissemination has not been a rosy one for the journalists. From the inception of journalism and newspaper publication in Nigeria.
There has been a cat and mouse relationship between the press and the governments of all ages, whether military or civilian, except when the press allows itself to be cajoled, used and manipulated by the government to suit its whims and caprices.
The banning of newspapers and detention of journalist by government especially in the third world countries have been an old story.
For example the Nigeria government has at one time or the another banned or closed down most of the newspaper and magazine houses in Nigeria.
Most of the time it is prompted by the refusal of both the newspapers and magazines to take supreme position in reporting news that favours the government only and then agree to dance to the music of despotism.
If the press is to carry out its job as a watch dog in society successfully. Obviously, from time to time it will pinch the government on the wrong side. When it exposes the government failure and in consistencies.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
This research is design to access the level of freedom enjoy by the
press in Nigeria especially in freedom of information.
It also intent to compare and contrast the freedom of information during the military era and this present democratic dispensation.
The research focuses on various laws and legislations that hindered the freedom of information in Nigeria.
1.3 Research Questions
1. To what extent has OSBC faced challenges in information gathering?
2. Does OSBC have strategies to tackle the challenges of poor freedom of information
3. To what extent has the freedom information law impacted on OSBC?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
1. This study is pertinent to give the importance of press freedom in the development of democracy and the long history of the repression of press freedom in Nigeria a country with probably the most animated media environment in Africa.
2. To x ray the challenges of freedom of information and how journalists are being treated by the present government which limited the press as the fourth estate of the realm.
3. To point out that press freedom is a major ingredient that press should enjoy during the democratic dispensation.
4. To let the public aware that freedom of press is their own freedom; since media serve as public mouth piece.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The issue of the government/press relationship in Nigeria has raised a lot of interest both to the practitioners and the public, that a study into the phenomenon was long overdue.
This study will no doubt be useful to mass media practitioners in Nigeria and will help the public appreciate the onerous role of the press in Nigeria so as to enable them rise in defense of the press whenever it is threatened by excessive political power.
It is expected that at the end of this study, the work will update knowledge within the frame work of the study.
Particularly, it will assist people on the benefit of freedom of information to the press and society at large.
This study will draw the attention of the government to empower the press to carry out its duties.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The scope of this research work had been narrowed down to OSBC for the purpose of convenience and lack of other logistics.
Although the research is basically focus on analysis of challenges facing freedom of information in Nigeria.
To this end, OSBC is selected to represent all mass media in Nigeria while demographic OSBC will be considered to access the number of staff, educational level, and qualification, working experience, sex, marital status and many more.
17. Limitations to the Study
This work is limited to OSBC. However, other media houses can benefit from it. Also, time has posed a serious constrain to this work as other academic activities need to be attended to.
Inadequate fund to cover all media houses, even to visit OSBC frequently as possible.
Another limitation was that few literature were available for this study, therefore, gathering of materials for this work became difficult.
1.8 Definition of Terms
PRESS: It refers to the fourth estate of the realm vested with theresponsibility to disseminate information, entertain, and educate members of a society.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: It refers to unlimited liberty,outspokenness, unhampered boldness. Freedom is the degree of unlimited access to information, which facilitates the performance of journalistic duties.
5.0 Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
What this research work set out to achieve was to investigate “the
challenges facing freedom of information in Nigeria”. The intention to embark on this study was to discover the extent this phenomenon has gone in affecting the performance of the Nigerian press.
This research was conducted using the survey research method, whereby a sample of the entire population was randomly selected. A total of one hundred questionnaires were administered to 100 respondents as selected from AIT and Nigeria Tribune, 50 copies to each of the medium. The percentage and simple table were used in analyzing the data collected.
Having considered the in depth background study of the sample used in this research, the review of the various related literatures, studies and theories in this field, using the appropriate measuring instrument in testing and analyzing the different questions formulated for the study i.e percentage and simple table, it is therefore, clear that lack of press freedom has a tremendous and negative impact on the performance of the Nigerian press. This is clear from the findings of the
researcher and this is supported by the results obtained.
This research work is concluded based on the responses obtained
from respondents. It can therefore be said that the effect of government and ownerships infringement on press freedom has negative effective on the press, it has also been to discredit of the Nigerian press, this affecting the performance, as well as growth of the journalistic profession and thereby affect national development.
In spite of the turbulent circumstances in which Nigeria press finds itself, it will continue to be the mouthpiece of the people because
In concluding this article, it will be pertinent to reiterate the idea that the level of democracy in any nation is determined by the government- media relationship of that nation.
In spite of the turbulent circumstances in which Nigerian press finds itself, it will continue to be the mouthpiece of the people because it seems that government has mastered the art of hide and seek and the press has got the will and tenacity to find out the administrative gimmicks of the government and inform the public.
The press is usually the mirror through which the public sees how the state is run. This was put in a more succinct way when an American justice, George Sutherland, had this to say about press freedom in 1935: “a free press stands as one of the great interpreters between the government and the people. To allow it to be fettered is to be fettered ourselves.” This goes to say that, the freer the press of any nation, the freer the people. Freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to a free society (Umechukwu, 2003: 12).
Only a free press can ensure the exposure and sustain democracy and development. A lot of changes could come if the press was allowed to operate unrestricted.
In many developing countries, journalists continue to be harassed and killed for their work, autocratic leaders cling to laws designed to shied
them from scrutiny by their constituents; and citizens often are unable to assert their rights to access information needed to make good decisions. Though the incidence of harassment and detention of journalists in Nigeria has subsided since 1998, the importance of press freedom as a cornerstone of human rights and a guarantee of other freedom has been the hallmark of media events in the last two years.
The press, which is referred to as fourth estate of the realm, is assumed to be the arbiter, the umpire and its existence is a check on the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The press stands between the government and the masses and it is through the press that the voices of the masses are heard.
MacBride et al (1980:214) asserted that “the press has been described as fourth estate because full and accurate information on matters of public interest is the means by which governments, institutions, organizations and all others in authority at whichever level are held accountable to and by the public. Nevertheless, those in authority often tend to conceal that which is inconvenient or likely to arouse public Opinion against them.”
It is hoped that with the new freedom of information law, journalists and media practitioners will have more power and more strength and right to access government document thereby enable the general public to get better information.
The result obtained from this project work enabled the researcher establish that there is an over-whelming effect which government actions against the press exert on the performance of the press. As an institution, it strongly recommended therefore:-
That government should exercise restraint on relationship with the Nigerian press and should adopt the use of law-court in settling disputes with the press, rather than the use of repressive measures.
That a very strong press council with independent power be
established to act as the final arbiter between the press and government, as well as others concerned with complaints against the press. Codes of professional ethics as they presently exist, should be further strengthened so that practitioners get acquainted with them. It is clear that many journalists lack adequate knowledge of ethics guiding the journalistic profession.
Government should educate itself on the onerous task the press carry out in the society and realize that instead of being warring parties, they could be partners.
The researcher also recommends a follow-up to substantiate the effect which infringement on press freedom exert on national development. This is based on the fact that it will be aimed at discovering if the phenomenon has affected the economic, social, political and technological advancement of the country.
Another research could be conducted to find out if the press through its activities in Nigeria, has in any way endangered national security. It will enable the researcher find out if government is justified in any way by its actions against the press.
The study should be repeated under different condition, in a different city on area, using a different population. This will also help to see if the same result could be obtained..