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THE EFFECT OF INFORMATION ACT ON NIGERIA JOURNALIST

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    ABSTRACT

    The study examines the effect of information Act on Nigeria journalist. A surrey research design was adopted in carrying out the study. A sample size of 50 informed respondent gotten from the total population of 60 worker in NTAAwka was used for the study. Questionnaire was used for the collection of data from the respondents and the data collected were all analysed in simple percentage. Findings of the study showed that there is a freedom of information act in Anambra state and that due to this freedom of information act, journalists in Anambra are able to have access to information which they air to members of the audiences. The finding also indicated that that Anambra state government encourages freedom of information Act as they grant easy  access to information to  journalists. It was therefore, recommended in the study that Journalist should utilize the freedom of information act the more and become more efficient in getting information that will be of importance to the citizens. And on the other hand, Governments should adhere strictly to the act in granting more access to journalist to get any information needed.

    CHAPTER ONE

    INTRODUCTION

    Journalism is one social institution that requires freedom to effectively function in society. It plays a crucial role to society, serving as the watchdog of the society, and providing constant stream of information, education and socialization. Soeze (2005, p.19) said that the media as the watchdog of the society have the responsibility of keeping the public informed, educated and socialized. This involves making people know the day-to-day activities and dealings of those in government whether military or civilian. In addition, the media also help to ensure that the government knows the feelings and yearnings of those it governs. However,for the media to perform these functions effectively and efficiently there must be press freedom.

    Journalism also sets agenda, organizes public debates and discussions, and interprets issues to put them in proper perspectives to make meaning to people. Through these roles, journalism not only educate, inform and socialize; it also confers status, values and significance to issues, thereby serving as the mouth-piece and defender of the voiceless and the oppressed in society(Sambe, 2008).Since the emergence of modern journalism in Nigeria in 1859 (Aliede, 2003), it has been struggling to achieve the needed freedom that would enable it discharge its social responsibilities creditably. The journalistic task of gathering and disseminating news has not been an easy one largely due to limited freedom occasioned largely by government firm grip and control of the mass media. Thus, Uche (2013) notes that relationship between the mass media and the government in Nigeria has been a cat and mouse affair. The free flow of information has been tampered with. Journalists have had no access to vital information let alone the masses. In struggling to get detailed, factual and balanced reportage, journalists have had to continue to nose around for information, exposing themselves to high levels of risk that got them victimized, jailed, tortured and sometimes killed (Ezeah, 2004).

    Obnoxious laws and decrees have been promulgated by various governments directly or indirectly aimed at limiting the freedom of the press and oppressing of journalists. Ezeah (2004,p.18) stresses that “many journalists have suffered undue hardships in relation to these laws and also in the hands of over-zealous government officials and security operatives. They were challenged with all sorts of deprivations and depredations.” For instance, during the military government of General Muhammadu Buhari, two journalists with the Guardian newspaper,Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, were in 1984 jailed for a story they wrote on diplomatic postings which the government considered offensive and promptly promulgated Decree No. 4(Accusation Against Public Officers), under which the journalists were tried and sentenced toone year jail term (Eme, 2008). During General Ibrahim Babangida’s military government the founding Editor-in-Chief of Newswatchmagazine, Dele Giwa, was assassinated on 19thOctober, 1986 through a parcel bomb. Soon after the assassination, the government proscribedNewswatchin 1987 and followed with sundry arrests, intimidations, harassments and detention of journalists while the proscription of media houses became the order of the day (Anim, 2010).

    Journalism also had it tough during the General SaniAbacha’s military government. During this government, the degree of abuses against journalists escalated. Criminal allegations of treasonwere levelled against journalists including Kunle Ajibade of The News magazine, George Mbahof Tell magazine, and Chris Anyanwu, publisher of the defunct Sunday magazine, Weekend Classique. These journalists were unfairly tried and sentenced to various prison terms(Ogbondah, 2005). Other forms of anti-journalism activities under Abacha’s government included confiscation of newspapers and magazines, disruption of printing and distribution,publication of false editions of some magazines, withholding of official advertisements and promulgation of anti-press decrees (Ezeah, 2004).

    When the military handed over power to a civilian government on May 29, 1999, there was a high expectation that journalists were going to enjoy relative freedom to enable them effectively discharge their duties. However, this was not to be the case. Cases of assault on journalists were witnessed during the civilian democratic government of Olusegun Obasanjo.The cases include the brutalization of Akintunde Akinleye, a photo- journalist with Daily Independent, the detention of three editors of the Insider magazine in 2003, the experiences of Isioma Daniel, the reporter with This Day newspaper and Cyril Mba of the Monitor newspaper among others. Similarly, two Nigerian journalists, Rotimi Durojaiye of Independent news paper and Gbenga Aruleba of African Independent Television (AIT) were arrested and detained,following their coverage of the controversial air disaster involving Boeing 737 in 2006. The journalists, as noted by Eme (2008), were charged for sedition in connection with the materials they published on the cost and age of the controversial presidential jet purchased by the  President Obansanjo’s administration. The journalists reported that the Boeing air bus was purchased at the cost of 72 million US dollars, about 9.3 billion naira .As a result of the foregoing predicament prevailing against the practice of journalism, journalists, civil societies and coalition groups in Nigeria worked assiduously to achieve press freedom. It against this backdrop that this study sort to examine the effect of information Act on Nigeria journalist.

    • Background of the study

    The idea of a Freedom of Information law for conceived in 1993 by three different organisation independently of each other. The Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO,) and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), subsequently agreed to work together on a campaign for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act. The objective of the campaign was to lay down as a legal principle the right of access to documents and information in the custody of the government or its officials and agencies as a necessary corollary to the guarantee of freedom of expression. It was also aimed at creating mechanisms for the effective exercise of this right.

    The consultations among the initial partner organisations were geared, among other things, towards determining the various interest groups likely to be affected by the legislation; those who should have a right or standing to request information under a freedom of information regime and under what circumstances information may be denied those seeking them; what departments or organs of government would be responsible for releasing information and documents to those seeking them; and determining the agencies and arms of government to which the legislation would extend.

    The Bill’s tortuous road to becoming an Act is perhaps a major reason why there is a lot of hurrah from the media and civil society groups, who had been resilient in pushing for the passage of the Bill. In fact there were at a point fears that the president would not give his assent to the Bill, especially given the comment by the former presidential adviser on National Assembly Matters Alhaji Aba Aji, who said that the Bill was ‘dead on arrival’. Following extensive research, Media Rights Agenda’s Legal Directorate headed by Mr.TundeFagbohunlu of the law firm of Aluko and Oyebode,produced in 1994 a draft bill entitled “Draft Access to Public Records and Official Information Act”. This translated into the Freedom of Information Acta fter undergoing several modifications. The Act was revived during the fifthNational Assembly in 2003 and passed by both chambers in the first quarter of2007. It was however vetoed by President Olusegun Obasanjo. It returned to both chambers of the 6th National Assembly in 2007 before eventually becoming Law.

    Therefore, after a tortuous 5 years journey through the legislative process thatstarted on December 9, 1999 when it was first gazetted, the Freedom of Information Act was eventually passed into law on the 28″‘ of May, 2011- the eve of the inauguration of the seventh Parliament of the National Assembly. The law,which is the oldest legislation in the works in Nigeria’s legislative history,effectively deals with requests for government records and is consistent with the belief that the people have the “right to know” about them.

    1.2 Statement of Problem

    It is a well-known fact that Freedom of Information Act (FOI) was to strengthen the constitutional guarantee of freedom to receive and impact information and ideas. The law encourages investigative journalism, balance reporting, and objectivity, verification of stories, openness, transparency, fairness and accuracy in media presentation.This freedom, according to Uche (1989) was going to encourage journalism practice in diverse ways including: providing press liberty to communicate ideas, opinions, information;the right to criticize the political, economic and social institutions of the country; the right to help enlighten every Nigerian by providing him/her with the day’s intelligence in an open market place of ideas without any overt or covert systematic means of applying censorship,pressure or any form of inhibition on the part of the federal and state government institutionswithin the country, within the law of sedition, libel, slander and defamation. These efforts materialized with the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2011.Even before the passage and subsequent signing of the Freedom of Information Bill into law, there were strong views that the Act was going to facilitate journalism practice in Nigeria. But the freedom of information act in Nigeria is faced with a lot of problem as in a case were a journalist is not fully granted the right to have access to some information considered sensitive by government and other elites. In a situation where  a journalist endeavors to sources for such information or dare publish such information, the journalist is being maltreated by those who viewed themselves as the elite and above the constituted law of the country which grant freedom of information. It’s due to this backdrop that this study sort to investigate the effect of information Act on Nigeria journalist.

    1.3 Purpose of the Study

    The main purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of information Act on Nigeria journalist. Specific purpose is to investigate,

    1. The Impacting of Freedom of Information Act (FOI) on journalism practice in Awka Anambra state.
    2. The extent of Freedom of Information Act in Awka Anambra state.
    3. If Anambra State Government encourages Freedom of Information Act.
    4. The benefits of freedom of information act on the practice of journalism in  Awka Anambra state.
    5. If freedom of information act will make journalism more promising, especially in determining what or what not to report.

    1.4 Research Question

    In other to guide the study, the following questions were posed as follows

    1. What is the Impacting of Freedom of Information Act on journalism practice in Awka Anambra state?
    2. To What extent is the Freedom of Information Act in Awka Anambra state?
    3. Do Anambra State Government encourages Freedom of Information Act?
    4. What are the benefits of freedom of information act on the practice of journalism in  Awka, Anambra state?
    5. Does freedom of information act make journalism more promising, especially in determining what or what not to report?
      • Significance of the Study

    The study is of benefit to journalist, the government and to follower researchers. For journalist, the study enables them to see the extent to which there is freedom of Information in Anambra state. It also enables them see the  impact of freedom of information act on the practice of journalism  and at the same time  observe and note how the Government has being encouraging the freedom of information in Anambra state. The study also benefits journalist in that the findings of the study enabled them see benefit of freedom of information act on the practice of journalism in Anambra state. For the government, the finding of the study makes them see the need to encourage freedom of information which will allows journalist practice effectively while to follower researchers, the study serves as a source of information and reference for further study.

    1.6 Scope of the study

    The scope of the study cover the effect of freedom of information act  on Nigeria journalist. In term of geographical area to be covered, the scope   covered only Awka south Local government area while  in  terms of the respondents the study covers  National Television Authority(NTA)  staffs who are  journalist  serving in  Awka Metropolis.

    17 Conceptual Framework

    For the purpose of clarity of words used in the study,  the following words used are defined as used  in the  study.

    Information Act: A degree which is made to guide the way information flows in the society.

    Freedom of Information:The  access to free flow of information no matter how sensitive or less sensitive the information is.

    Journalist: A person who practice journalism.

     

     

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