Abstract: There are legal and social problems that have continued to restrain the Nigerian journalists from adequate and effective news reporting. These laws are meant to dictate to journalists what they should and should not publish. Whether in a military or a civilian government, these laws are always there to serve the objectives of the powers that be, and to brow beat the press. In the past during military dictatorships many journalists and reporters suffered all sorts of deprivations and depredations. When the military relinquished power to a democratically elected civilian government in May 1999, there was general relief owing to the belief that member of the ‘fourth estate of the realm” would have relative freedom, majority of the respondents agreed that press enjoy more freedom under democracy than under the past military yet the freedom is not completed even with the passage of the New Freedom of Information Law. For the purpose of this study, survey method was adopted while questionnaires were distributed to the selected respondents within Osun State Newspaper Correspondents Osogbo, to know how free is press under 1999 constitution especially as Freedom of Information Law (FOI) was part of the amended area of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
1.1 Background to the Study
Government attempt not only to control but to subjugate the press through obnoxious laws had been an enduring problem in the history of Nigeria Press. The press has 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 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 belief that they are to serve as watchdog on government and not to be used as government extention of ministry of information or for 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.
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….”.
According to Ekwelie (1986), “throughout the centuries, and in every country, the media have been subjected to both harassment and manipulation”. From the colonial era to Nigeria’s independence and to military and civilian regimes, the press has struggled to exist amidst diverse suppressive laws, ordinances, acts and decrees enacted and promulgated at one time or another by different governments. Today, the Nigerian press exists in a very tenuous position
In the words of Eze (1993), “the jeremiad of complaints by the press have fallen on deaf ears of government whose alert and watchful eyes are permanently directed on what the press published with eager hands to censor and equal hostility to attack and arrest the reporters” The present democratic environment has not fully guaranteed a conducive operational atmosphere for journalists in the country. Even the democratic government of Olusegun Obasanjo since inception has, indeed, been characterized by pockets of attach on the press similar to what was obtainable during the military era.
However, since the time of colonial masters, journalists and freedom fighters have been clamouring for press freedom which were not full given like they are enjoying in United States of American. In fact the nation’s 1999 constitution that was expected to provide this freedom was just the replica of the 1979 constitution where the freedom was just give and take , going by the section 22 of chapter 2 of the 1999 constitution states that: “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 give the press a constitutional duty but failed to empowered them by law until the recent , May 27 2011 to be précised ,when Mr. president final give assent to a new freedom of information bill that had been unanimously scrutinized by the two chambers i.e House of Representatives and Senate House with a title: an act 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. This study intends to examine the challenges facing journalists on freedom of information.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
From the colonial era to Nigeria’s independence and to military and civilian regimes, the press has struggled to exist amidst diverse suppressive laws, ordinances, acts and decrees enacted and promulgated at one time or another by different governments.
Today, the Nigerian press exists in a very tenuous position. In the words of Eze (1993:21), “the jeremiad of complaints by the press have fallen on deaf ears of government whose alert and watchful eyes are permanently directed on what the press published with eager hands to censor and equal hostility to attack and arrest the reporters”. This research work will focus attention on the challenges facing journalists on freedom of information .
1.3 Objectives of the Study
- To know how free are journalists since the passage of FOI Law.
- To study the challenges journalists are facing before the passage of FOI Law.
1.4 Research Questions
- To what extent does new FIO law reshape the practice of journalism in Nigeria?
- How free is press under the new FIO law?
1.5 Scope of the Study
The study which analyzed the challenges facing journalists on freedom of information was narrowed in scope to Osun State Newspaper Correspondents, Osogbo. The geographical local of this is Osogbo, Osun State. The choice of Osogbo was due to its proximity to the researcher. However, research findings will be generalized on other media houses, since it is difficult if not impossible to visit the entire media houses or all chapter of Nigeria Union of Journalists in each state of the federation.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The significance of the study aiming at revealing to the entire world especially the media practitioners, audience, which include different bodies and agencies that the freedom of the press is a freedom of everybody in the society irrespective of their discipline , status and background.
The study will further help media practitioners 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.
Lastly, the research is expected to draw the attention of other researchers, the need to focus on the issues concerning freedom of information especially it application as it had been passed into law for use.
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
Impact: It is a way of assessing the quality or value of something.
Freedom: It is a special privileged or right of access or the right to act or speak freely.
Information: It is a message or idea given out.
Law: A rule or system or rules established by authority.
Media Practitioners: These are the people working in a media outfits.
Media: Television: Radio and television as the means of mass communication.
Correspondents: It is synonymous to reporters or journalists.