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NATIONAL SECURITY AND THE RIGHT OF THE PUBLIC TO KNOW

(Last Updated On: 11th December 2022)

Abstract: The right of citizens to know what is happening within the government and in the ordinary street 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.  It is against this background that this research examines National Security and the Right of the public to know: An analysis of Samuel Ogundipe Experience.  The study was anchored on Social Responsibility Theory. Survey research method was used while one copies of questionnaire were administered to journalists in Port-harcout. The data collected were analyzed in frequency and percentage tables. Findings show that despite the FOI Act, journalists and media professionals are still facing different form of harassment, intimidation, killing, arrest and forcefully pressure to disclose their source of information among other. Journalists condemned and dislike the arrest and detention of Samuel Ogundipe. It is recommended that Journalists should study the new freedom of information law and see how they can adopt to the new system especially now that journalists are still facing challenges in the hand of security operative. 


Keywords: NATIONAL SECURITY


CHAPTER ONE

Introduction

1.1     Background to the Study

The importance of journalism comes from the peoples’ rights to know, opinion and expression since the right to opinion and expression would not be a reality without the press, people today depend greatly on the press for being informed (Nweke, 2015)  cited in  (Yangkai, 2000).

Similarly, investigative journalism is arguably one of the most important contributions that the press makes to democracy. This could be linked to the logic of checks and balances in democratic systems and the role played by investigation journalism in this regard. This form of journalism goes further by providing valuable mechanism for monitoring the performance of democratic institutions as they are most broadly defined to include governmental bodies, civic, organization and publicly held corporations. It is the kind of journalism that Ansell; et al. (2002) in Verbitsky (1997:16) describes as disseminating what someone does not want to be known. According to him, investigative journalism makes visible what is hidden, and throws salt in the wounds.

Similarly, Harcup (2008) in Negrine (1996) writes that “Investigation Journalism requires active reporting, the unearthing and putting together pieces of information in contrast passive reception as in the following of leaks”. Investigative journalism is considered as the third layer of reporting, it goes beyond the surface; it is a journalism that seeks to bring out news behind the news and reveals the secret a source is trying to conceal. In a nutshell, the generic concept of investigative journalism is the act of digging deep to get things or facts out in the open. That is, something beyond the straight news.

Today, many articles, publication and media professionals and commentator view investigative journalism as an instrument that demonstrates the power of the press as the guard to good democratic, governance and also journalism’s own instrument to restrain the abuse of political and economic power. As a tool of fourth estate model, investigative journalism retains important agenda setting power which reminds citizens and political elites about the existence of certain issues. Going by the Chapter 2, Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution as Amended “

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. Despite this section and 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.

However, on August 14th 2018 to be precise, a Premium Times reporter, Samuel Ogundipe, in what amounts to a criminalisation of journalism, was arrested by the Nigerian Police for theft and unlawful possession of restricted and classified documents which in the opinion of the Police could jeopardise state security. Ogundipe was arrested on Tuesday, August 14 and detained at the force headquarters and in an attempt to mitigate accusations of human rights violation, he was surreptitiously arraigned two days later in a magistrate court in Abuja.

In a statement by the force spokesperson, Ogundipe was, “being investigated and prosecuted for the offences of theft and unlawful possession of restricted and classified documents inimical to state/national security that can jeopardise peace, breakdown of law and order capable of precipitating crisis in the country,”

These offences according to him, violates official secret act, cybercrime act, and the penal code law for which he has volunteered statements and is standing trial. There have been an outrage over the detention of Ogundipe because the issue pertaining to his arrest and detention was already in the public domain, it has to do with the preliminary report of the Inspector General of Police to the Vice President who then acting as the President on the siege laid on the National Assembly by the Department of State Security a week earlier.

Details of the report were obtained by Ogundipe and published by the Premium Times. Obviously embarrassed by the leaked report the Police authorities decided to use brute force and coercion to compel the Premium Times reporter to disclose the source of the leaked report.

On failure to achieve its aim, and following public outcry the Police decided to seek refuge in court by charging the reporter with the archaic, obsolete and colonial official secrets act, and further stretching the charges to include a violation of the cybercrimes act, and the penal code, all in a desperate attempt to criminalise the lawful actions of a journalist in the lawful performance of his constitutionally guaranteed function of news gathering and holding government accountable to the people.

Viewed against the fact that another journalist Jones Abiri was kept incommunicado in the DSS dungeon for two years until August 15th 2018 that he was released, this and many more instances  raises serious questions about the relationship between the media and the Nigerian security apparatus as there seems to be a serious attempt to stifle and intimidate the free press to submission at all cost in a democratic dispensation!

It should also be recalled recall that last December 2017, the Nigerian Army had similarly accused Premium Times of ”unwarranted and serial provocative, unauthorized, libellous 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 subsequently 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.

What has become obvious from the foregoing is the intimidation journalists and media houses for writing stories which 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.

The job of the press is disclosure, to be an irritant to those in the confines of government. It is precisely when the press is telling us what we don’t want to hear, when it is challenging the status quo and government officials, exposing government misconduct and refusing to be the unofficial mouthpiece of any government agency that the media can be said to be doing its job and justifies its constitutional protection.

Section 22 of the 1999 constitution as amended imposes a duty on the media to ensure that government is accountable to the people at all times by upholding the fundamental objectives contained thereof.

In recognition of the fact that citizens could not promote accountability and transparency in government without access to information, the fundamental rights of every citizen to freedom of expression, including the right to hold and impart ideas were enshrined in the Constitution. But some public officers have continued to use the machinery of the state, albeit illegally, to intimidate the free media by resorting to colonial statutes to unearth anti-media legislation like the official secrets act and dead provisions of the Criminal Code to intimidate journalists, which from all intents and purposes has been consequentially repealed and rendered nugatory and of no consequence by the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

It is against this backdrop that the research investigates national security and the right of the public know with a specific analysis of Samuel Ogundipe Experience with Police between 14th -16th August 2018.

1.2     Statement of the Problem

There has been a cat and mouse relationship between the press, society, organisation, politician, secret bodies, kidnapper, terrorists, venders 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 or personal interest of the so called ‘big power” to suit its whims and caprices.

Investigative journalists are hunters that is been hunted especially in Nigeria and third world countries, this assertion stressed that Investigative 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 press to become their target and enemy. However, the work of Investigative journalists placed them at the centre of society because they are regarded as the fourth estate of realm as it gather and disseminate information from government, group and individuals. Investigative journalism has been considered to be an advanced aspect of journalism which required special skills and experience, to this end, many reporters find it difficult and see it as the most dangerous field while it is very hard to see women journalists engage in investigative journalism.

Palest (2002) remarks that compared with other forms of reporting, investigative journalism usually involves more risk, more time and money. There is even the occasional threat or act at violence when carrying out investigative reporting. In Nigeria, investigative journalism being an integral part of journalism’s image in reality appears to be a minority pursuit. This means that journalistic in Nigeria seem mostly confined within the boundaries of straight news, titivating stories and entertainment, leaving investigative journalism unexplored. To this end, the study tries to investigate national security and the right of the public know with a specific analysis of Samuel Ogundipe Experience with Police between 14th -16th August 2018.

1.3      Objectives of the Study

  1. To examine the extent which journalists in Nigeria engaged in investigative reporting these days.
  2. To ascertain the major challenge(s) hampering journalists in Nigeria in carrying out investigative reporting.

1.4       Research Questions

Below are some of the research questions drawn from the statement of the problem with the view to provide answer to some issues begging for answers.

  1. To what extent are journalists in Nigeria engaging in investigative reporting?
  2. What are the major challenge(s) hampering journalists in Nigeria in carrying out investigative reporting?

1.5     Scope of the Study

The study which examines national security and the right of the public to know/l an analysis of Samuel Ogundipe experience has been narrowed in scope to journalists in Rivers State particularly those that can be accessed at the Nigerian Union of Journalists Chapel, Portharcourt. The Chapel is selected because it offers the researcher avenue to have access to as many journalists as possible because journalists especially those reporting from Rivers state often visit the place. Other factors for selecting NUJ Chapel in Portharcout is due to inadequate time, lack of fund and other considerable logistics.

The journalists demographic variables such as gender, age, educational level, and qualification, work experience, marital status and many more will be considered before the structuring and administration of the research instrument  

1.6     Significance of the Study

As an academic study, it will add to the academic knowledge of the students, researchers and professionals. It will add to the body of knowledge in the field of investigative journalism and media studies in general especially on factors influencing investigative journalism practice in Nigeria.

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 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 the investigative journalism, particularly, it will assist people on the reasons while 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 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 Terms

National Security: These are various issues that border on the national unity, peace, safety, national soverengten that Nigeria wish to protect for the safety of all.    

The Right of the Public to Know: This simply means the freedom of the common men in the society to know what is happening around them especially what those in power want to hide.

Investigative journalism: This is the type of reporting that involves finding out facts beyond the straight news, especially about information that someone is trying to keep secrete.

Analysis:  This refers to the critical examination of the experience of Samuel Ogundipe while in security custody.

Semuel Ogundipe: This is a reporter of the Premium Times who was jailed by Nigeria Security over an allegation of the sabotaging the national security is having in position some classified documents.

Semuel Ogundipe Experience: These are all what Samuel Ogundipe witness, experience and went through while he was in the security net during his investigative assignment.


“NATIONAL SECURITY AND THE RIGHT OF THE PUBLIC TO KNOW”



WHAT TO EXPECT: (Chapter 1-5, Abstract, Table of Contents, Questionnaire and References)


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