ABSTRACT: The study analyzes the effectiveness of media law in Nigeria with a particular focus on Journalists in Lagos State. The right of citizens to know what is happening in the corridor of government is one of the factors that drive journalists while a tool used by the government to restrict journalists is to classify some documents and information as “Official Secret Act”, “National Security” and “Internal Interest”. These are used to cloak the government’s illegal spying activities. The study was anchored on Social Responsibility Theory, Source Credibility Theory, and Democratic Participant Theory. A survey research method was used while 186 copies of the questionnaire were administered to journalists in Lagos. The data collected were analyzed in frequency and percentage tables. Findings show that journalists now enjoy more freedom compared to what the situation looked like in the past while, access to public records and documents has increased to some extent. However, despite the FOI Act, journalists and media professionals are still facing various degrees of harassment, intimidation, killing, arrest, and forceful pressure to disclose their source of information among others. The study recommended that journalists should study the new freedom of information law and see how they can adapt to the new system while media houses and media associations should as well educate, and organize workshops and seminars for their staff on how to make use of the law in shaping the practice of journalism in this democratic era.
Keywords: Media Law
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Title Page i
Table of Contents vi
1.0 Introduction 1
1.1 Background to the Study 1
1.2 Statement of the Problem 3
1.3 Objectives of Study 4
1.4 Research Questions 5
1.5 Significance of the Study 5
1.6 Scope of Study 5
1.7 Limitations to the Study 6
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms 6
2.0 Literature Review 7
2.1 Empirical Framework 7
2.2 Conceptual Review 8
2.3 Theoretical Framework 24
3.0 Research Methodology 26
3.1 Research Design 26
3.2 Research Method 26
3.3 Restatement of Research Questions 26
3.4 Characteristics of the Study Population 27
3.5 Sampling Technique 27
3.6 Sample Size 27
3.7 Administration of Data Collection Instrument 27
3.8 Validity and Reliability of Research Instrument 27
3.9 Data Collection Instrument 28
3.10 Data Analysis Method 28
4.0 Data Analysis and Presentation 29
4.1 Data Analysis 29
4.2 Discussion of Findings 39
5.0 Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations 40
5.1 Summary 41
5.2 Conclusion 41
5.3 Recommendations 41
1.1 Background to the Study
Media laws are the laws governing the dissemination and reception of ideas and information through the media of mass communication, the role of the press and the public, and their rights and duties to the individuals and the state in general. Put succinctly, media laws are the rules and regulations guiding the operation of the media of communication either through public or private channels and the punishment therein that will be meted out to the person or group of persons that violate these laws. It is, therefore, imperative that journalists know how to legally or rightfully receive and give information (Okoye, 2007).
There have been a variety of new features as posited to the kind of world to be expected in the feature during the colonial English-speaking West Africa Countries (Anglophone). The coming of the newspaper was one of the prominent among those features. The first newspaper in Nigeria was published in 1859 barely when the press in Nigeria was about 7 years old, there was an attempt by the colonial masters to control the press. Between 1959-1900, the Nigerian press existed under British Law with the exception of three Laws. In 1896, there was the Official Secret Ordinance. These were the three Ordinances that affected the press up till 1900 (Mojaye, 2012).
The order law under which the Nigerian press operated was British Law up till this time, the colonialists were disinterested in the Nigerian press. Therefore, by 1903, there was the Newspaper Ordinance. Its passage was bitterly opposed by the existing newspapers. They succeeded to rally the Nigerian public against the enactment of the law.
All over the world government regulates various fields of human endeavor. Thus, banking, education, health care delivery, hotels, and so on, are regulated. This means these industries are provided with basic structures for their operation. The mass media industry is equally regulated. However, because of the peculiar nature of the mass media as vehicles for free expression, which is a fundamental human right, the government is careful to regulate the media only to the extent consistent with the expectations of a democratic society. Thus, over-regulation of the media will stifle free expression and give rise to underground press and even rebellion (Okoye, 2007).
Freeing mass media to operate without constraint, especially from government and regulating agencies is called press freedom and it has been a serious issue since the earlier days of the media establishment because of the power and position occupied by the mass media in the society. The mass media is an agent of mass mobilization, mass education, and mass information, and is an instrument of mass deception if used unjustly (Eshimokha, 2014).
Due to the above notion of the press, the government in different countries often finds it uncomfortable to allow the press to exist uncontrolled. The media is seen as volatile and flammable which can ignite and fuel issues through its agenda-setting power and its believability. A free press is a sin qua non to democracy and it is regarded as an advanced level of freedom of expression and speech (Okoye, 2007).
The major determinant of press freedom in most countries is the government. The type of government and political system operating in a particular society determines how much freedom the press enjoys and the kind of media law that shapes the media practice. This also agrees with the position of the Normative Press Theory according to Anaeto, Onabanjo, and Osifeso (2008) cited in Siebert, Schramm, and Peterson (1956) which stated that “the press takes on the form and coloration of the social and political structures within which it operates”. The press and other media, in their view, will reflect the “basic beliefs and assumptions that the society holds”. In the Western liberal tradition, this refers to matters such as freedom, equality before the law, social solidarity and cohesion, cultural diversity, active participation, and social responsibility. Different cultures may have different principles and priorities.
The more liberal, free market, and democratic a society are the more freedom of expression and free media it operates. The control of the mass media is also known as regulation which is usually checked mate through various media laws. Regulation refers to the whole process of control or guidance, by established rules and procedures, applied by governments and other political and administrative authorities to all kinds of media activities. Thus, regulation is always a potential intervention in ongoing activities, usually for some stated “public interest” goal, but also to serve the needs of the market (for instance, by supporting competition) or for reasons of technical efficiency (for instance, setting technical standards) (McQuail, 2010).
Regulation takes many forms, ranging from clauses in national constitutions and laws to administrative procedures and technical specifications. Regulation can be internal as well as external. In the former case, we are usually speaking of `self-regulation’, where internal controls are applied, sometimes in response to public pressure or criticism from outside (Okoye, 2017). Government attempts not only to control but to subjugate the press through obnoxious laws had been an enduring problem in the history of the Nigerian Press. The press has been striving to wriggle itself out of these unfavorable laws, but the government believes that giving the press the freedom to operate as an independent entity may be suicidal.
Usually, the government feels that it is logical to restrain the power of the press and if possible have total control of the press. To the government, the press is an instrument of people in power and should yield itself to their dictates. But the press fights fiercely to resist this obsequious stance government wants to subject it to because the press believes that they are to serve as a watchdog of the government and not to be used as a government extension of the Ministry of Information or as a propaganda tool. This gives rise to clashes between the press and the government. While government uses its authority to subjugate the press, the press resists by remaining tenacious in its fight for freedom.
However, since the time of colonization in Nigeria journalists and freedom fighters have been clamoring for press freedom which was not fully given like they are enjoying in the United States of America. In fact, the nation’s 1999 constitution which was expected to provide this freedom was just the replica of the 1979 constitution where the freedom was just given and taken, going by section 22 of chapter 2 of the 1999 constitution as amended as culled from Arowosegbe (2007). “the press radio, television and other agencies of mass media shall at all-time be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contain in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the public”
The constitution gives the press a constitutional duty but failed to empower them by law until the recent, May 27 2011 to be précised, when former President Goodluck Jonathan assented to a new Freedom of Information Act. “The Act is to make public records and information more freely available, provide for public access to public records and information, project public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy, protect serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of official information without authorization and establish procedures for the achievement of those purposes and related purposes thereof.
As good as this new Act, yet, many journalists and media outfits are still facing various challenges, tough times, intimidation,, and oppression from government agents especially the Nigerian police and DSS. On August 14th, 2018, a Premium Times reporter, Samuel Ogundipe. The police alleged Ogundipe for the offenses of theft and unlawful possession of restricted and classified documents inimical to state/national security that can jeopardize peace, and breakdown of law and order capable of precipitating crisis in the country. The document has to do with the preliminary report of the Inspector General of Police to the Vice President who then acted as the President on the siege laid on the National Assembly by the Department of State Security a week earlier. Also, another journalist Jones Abiri was kept incommunicado in the DSS dungeon for two years until August 15th, 2018 when he was released (Ogundipe, 2018).
It should also be recalled recall that last December 2017, the Nigerian Army had similarly accused Premium Times of ”unwarranted and serial provocative, unauthorized, libelous and defamatory publications against the person of Lt. Gen. T.Y. Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff and Nigerian Army counter-insurgency operations in the North East”. The police also invaded the Abuja office of the online publication and arrested Premium Times publisher, Mr Dapo Olorunyomi, and its judicial correspondent, Evelyn Okakwu, and took them to the headquarters of the Federal Capital Territory Police Command where they were held for several hours for charges bordering on criminal libel (Ogundipe, 2018).
What has become obvious from the foregoing is the intimidation of journalists and media houses for writing stories that are considered embarrassing or defamatory to persons in positions of power and have failed to come to terms that we are in a democracy and that freedom of the press is the pillar on which other societal freedom rests and holds the sacred duty of holding government accountable to the people by shedding light in the dark places of government. To this end, the research analyzes the effectiveness of media law in Nigeria with a core interest in the prospects and challenges facing journalists in Lagos state in applying the New Freedom of Information ACT in media routines.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Before the signing of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) by President Goodluck Jonathan on the 28th of May 2011, the press went through a lot of criticism/maltreatment at the hands of people/government especially the military government which as a result, many journalists/media practitioners were imprisoned, assassinated and assaulted. It is the expectation that with the new ACT, most of the challenges facing the press will go to an end. Conversely, the new law has not really impacted news gathering and dissemination as several journalists are still been molested, arrested, and persecuted while many media outfits have been invaded (Abdulhameed, 2014).
How free is the press under the new media law (Act), what gap has the new Act still created, and to what extent are journalists really utilize this FOI Act in their daily routine especially in accessing public records, reporting correction, and other classified matters in Nigeria with a particular interest in the prospects and challenges facing journalists in Lagos state in applying the New Freedom of Information ACT in media routines.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
- To examine whether the media law (FOI Act) in Nigeria has enhanced the practice of journalism in Nigeria.
- To evaluate how free is press under the current media law (FOI Act) in Nigeria
1.4 Research Questions
- To what extent has current media law (FOI Act) enhanced the practice of journalism in Nigeria?
- How free is the press under the current media law (Freedom of Information Act) in Nigeria?
1.5 Scope of the Study
The study which analyzes the effectiveness of media law in Nigeria has been narrowed in scope to the journalists in Lagos state who can be located at NUJ Press Centre Lagos due to the proximity. And because it will be difficult if not impossible to visit the entire media houses, media schools, and media veterans in Nigeria. Inadequate funds, time, and other logistics are some of the other rationales for limiting the scope of this study to the journalists in Lagos state.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The significance of the study aims at revealing to the entire world, especially the media practitioners, and audience, which includes different bodies and agencies that the freedom of the press is freedom of everybody in society irrespective of their discipline, status, and background.
The study will further help media practitioners with the need to fully inculcate and apply new freedom of information law into their daily activities for better gathering and dissemination of factual and balanced information. This study will no doubt be useful to mass media practitioners in Nigeria and beyond and will help the public appreciate the numerous role of the press in Nigeria so as to enable them to rise in defense of the press whenever it is threatened by excessive power.
It is also expected that at the end of this study, the work will update knowledge within the framework of investigative journalism, particularly, it will assist people on the reasons why journalists need to be more freed and enjoy more freedom of information to the press and society at large.
This study will draw the attention of the government to empower the press and ensure journalists’ security in carrying out their duties. More so, those who want to engage in a similar study will find it very useful by serving as a reference point as very few materials are available on the topic.
1.7 Operational Definition of the Terms
Analyzing: This means a careful study of the level of freedom of information enjoyed by the press in Nigeria.
Effectiveness: The degree of perfection and usefulness of the current media law to the practice of journalism in Nigeria particularly in Lagos.
Media Law: These are the various laws established to regulate the media and journalism practice and operations in Nigeria including the recent passage of the Freedom of Information Act.
Freedom of Information: this is a right to access, process, and distribute news and editorial materials without hindrance, especially from government agencies.
Freedom of Information Act: This is the Act that was assented to in 2011 that made guarantee easy access to public records and information with a promise that any institution that fails to provide the information required would be fined N500,000 and an applicant can sue the agency that refuses to release information which adds real value to the practice of journalism