Keywords: MEDIA REGULATION LAWS
INTRODUCTION: There has been a cat and mouse relationship between the mass media, society and governments of all ages, whether military or civilian, except when the press allows itself to be cajoled, used and manipulated by the government or personal interest of the so-called ‘big power” to suit its whims and caprices.
Journalists are hunters that is been hunted especially in Nigeria and third world countries, this assertion stressed that journalists are hunting for information, secret, facts, figures, idea to be shared to the public while some individuals, government, agent, organization, group e.t.c want their information, activities remain hiding, this make the press to become their target and enemy (Isamuko, 2009).
However, government attempt not only to control but to subjugate the mass media through obnoxious laws had been an enduring problem in the history of Nigeria mass media. The mass media have been striving to wriggle itself out of these unfavourable laws, but the government believes that giving the press the freedom to operate as an independent entity may be suicidal. Usually, government feels that it is logical to restrain the power of the press and if possible have a total control of the press.
To government, the mass media are instruments 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 belief that they are to serve as watchdog on government and not to be used as government extension of ministry of information or as propaganda tool. This gives rise to clashes between the mass media and the government. While government uses its authority to subjugate the press, the press resists by remaining tenacious in its fight for freedom.
The government’s truculent reaction to the freedom of the press to report the affairs of government to the public shows that the government always has skeletons in its cupboard and, therefore, would never entertain the prolonged glimpse of the press. The aim of the government to lord over the press is not peculiar to Nigeria alone none to the third world countries but to the entire world except the USA that said it clear in its constitution that “Congress shall make no law that will abridge the freedom of press and expression….”.
That is why government developed series of law and decree to gang against the press. The popular ones include but not limited to the following
- Official secret act
- Defamation (libel and slander)
- Contempt of court
- Contempt of parliament
From the colonial era to Nigeria’s independence and to military and civilian regimes, the mass media have struggled to exist amidst diverse suppressive laws, ordinances, acts and decrees enacted and promulgated at one time or another by different governments. Constitutionally, the mass media is given a responsibility thus: “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”
But the media are not backup effectively to operate. Access to information still not effective as there are official secret act which is the main law that is limiting the extent which the media can go. However, despite the passage of new Freedom of Information Act that was assented in 2011 by President Goodluck Jonathan, An Act that makes public records and information more freely available, provide for public access to 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. Yet, mass media are still facing one regulation, limitation or the other.