PRESS FREEDOM AND FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT IN NIGERIA (A CASE STUDY OF THE OLUSEGUN OBASANSO ADMINISTRATION)
1.0 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Press freedom and fundamental human rights are two terms that can make or mar a society.
Press freedom and fundamental human rights can make a society where they are given their right place and proper attention. In the same, vein, the two can mar society where they are not given their proper place and respect. Infact they are like two sides of the coin.
A respect for fundamental human rights thus becomes a respect for human person. To understand how fundamental human rights work in a society is to understand the position of press freedom in that society. Because a society cannot have fundamental human rights in operation without first of all having press freedom in place, since the press is the voice of the voiceless society.
Moreover to understand press freedom and fundamental human rights in Nigeria, one must at the social systems where they operate. To put this in perspectives, that is pertinent to review the Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida and the Sani Abacha military regimes and the supposed democratic government of Olusegun Obasanjo, during the period under military review in Nigeria, press freedom and fundamental human right were conceived not for the great mans of people for men who were in position to guide and direct their fellows. This freedom was thought to be created near the hub of power. This is to say that once one is in power or in uniform, the person is above the law in some aspects of life.
The press therefore functioned from the top to down. The rulers of the time used the press to inform the masses of what they want to hear. Know and support.
For instance the government used the media to project only its programme and policies. But after all these, the fate of press freedom still hangs the balance.
However as stated earlier, no person can talk freedom of the press without first of all thinking of fundamental human right. When human rights are held in bondage, the press cannot find a fertile ground to practice, hence the clamp on the press article one (1) of the universal declaration of human rights say ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Human rights and equal in dignity and rights. Human rights thus become birth right that flows from parents to children. This becomes possible as human beings are endowed with reason and consciences. There were severe retroactive laws as well as numerous absolutist decrees which inter-alia legalized illegalities and also drastically eroded fundamental human rights.
Nevertheless, these constitute were mere interludes in the long tragedies of violation unleashed on innocent citizens by the military regimes, more especially the Babangida and Abacha regimes, the case is not all that different in this Obasanjo administration but the treatment that time was sugar coated which may prove more dangerous. It is a form of good will but it was actually deceitful. A situation where a political party claims that it has chosen a consensus candidates to represent it in a political post or to use its platform to contest a political post while it is not so, this is denial of human rights of citizens in a democratic setting, it is fitting for the citizen in a political party to generally select the person who will use its name to contest for political post.
Most of the atrocities committed against the citizens were never reported during the regimes of Babangida and Abacha, as decrees were promulgated to trap those pressmen who cleared to publish government’s violation of human rights. As for Obasanjo administration such pressmen will be sacked without benefits. As a result of this ugly development against Nigeria pressmen, freedom of press becomes and remains a mirage.
Today the government frowns at who invites or comments on the regressing standard of education in Nigeria and its attendants problems. It is even more shameful that citizens do not know what is happening in their country, simply because there is no press freedom, at the same time government is claiming to be running a democratic state. The situation has so determine, that many events in Nigeria are first reported by foreign press before the local one. Sometimes, the Nigerian press never reports such occurrences. As a result of intimidation to Journalists and media operators, many Nigerians are ignorant of events in Nigeria or in the country. For example, the day Abacha died. It was the foreign media that reported it first and those Nigerians who do not have access to foreign reports got the news later when it was announced in Nigeria.
Consequently, the civil liberties organization (CLO) annual report about Nigeria and becomes a useful guide in appreciating the dept of ruthlessness and lawlessness of Babangida and Abacha regimes, including the Obasanjo administration. The executive thus arrogates to itself the power to accuse, arrest, make out punishment without recourse to the law courts. In the cast of the past military regimes, law courts were rendered important, new decrees were rolled out to deal with critics of government without the due process of law. Though the bill of human rights, the universal declaration of Federal Republic of Nigeria, have fundamental human rights, embedded in them, but implementation of such provisions is the case.
The press and government have observed the relationship existing between them as that of “friendly enemies, the press will be doing everything it knows now for government in power and the masses, but the only reward the press gets is Gail sentences, confiscation of their newspapers and magazines, writing of threat letters. Sometime send death through letter bombs as was the case of Dele Giwa during the Babangida regime and so on.
Nevertheless, the importance and functions of the press cannot be over emphasized in a secular society like ours. These functions of the press are:-
CORRELATION: (1997) and Wright (1975) wrote that, “Correlation includes the interrelationship about the environment and prescription for conduct in reaction to these events. This is the editorial or opinion function which is otherwise pejoratively referred to as propaganda agenda setting.
SOCIALIZATION OR EDUCATION: Wright further said that occur on communicating knowledge’s, values and social norms from one generation to another from members of a group of newcomers. This is done through informal education.
SURVEILLANCE: According to Wright, surveillance “refers to the collection and distribution of information, concerning events in the environment, both outside and within any particular society” this function of the press helps in guiding the live of the individual in society.
ENTERTAINMENT: Wright sees entertainment as “communicative it’s primarily intended for amusement, irrespective of any instrumental effect they might have. This is geared towards providing some amusement relaxation and relief from tension. It is basically meant to offer escape from hard, stressful times.
These functions of the press are very vital for the country and the press in society cannot be over emphasized.
1.1 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Press freedom cannot be discussed while isolating fundamental human rights. That is why article (1) of the universal declaration of human rights says that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. A nation may be in place, but without psychological welfare going on in it by this, the nation might be a multi ethics state, where some citizens will be depraved of some of their rights. This such a nation is lacking in its fundamental human rights, Martin Luther King Jr. statement “peace is not absence of conflict but the presence of justice. The unfortunate thing is that the poor masses of a country like Nigeria do not know what their rights are, they find it very difficult to fight for their rights. This is where the work of the pressmen becomes important, to fight the social ills in the country. But the question is, are the pressmen free to operate in Nigeria, thus the press profession is like the biblical contest between Moses and pharaoh, where Moses was demanding for the release of his people to go to the land of promise, so that they would be free to express themselves, without fear of obnoxious decrees. But so long as the persecution of the journalists persists, practicing journalists cannot rest on their bars this study will look at:
The extent fundamental human rights are observed since the administration of Olusegun Obasango from 1999-2003 till date. Some national dailies and magazines will be studied to establish friends in human rights violations.
1.2 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
To highlight the importance of press freedom, to look into how the press is being handled and determine how the press freedom can faster fundamental human rights in Nigeria.
To generate enough date that will serve as motivator for future researchers in this area of one’s communicating.
This work will be beneficial to media professionals politicians and anyone in society.
1.3 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This work among other things will look for a way of projecting Nigerian’s human rights and press freedom records in a good light both in and outside of the country. This work will be beneficial to media professionals, politicians, researchers and people from all walk of life.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
i) Research question, how was press freedom influence fundamental human rights.
The questions is taken care of by data in table 4.4 which said that press freedom has influence on fundamental human right, the press is seen as the voice of the voiceless in society. The reason being that anytime the press is doing its job effectively, it always influence and attract positively the operations of fundamental human right, that is peoples fundamental human rights are not easily violated by this means that the press speaks of society.
ii) How the press has failed under the Obasanjo administration is answered by data in table 4.1 which showed that the press is free in Nigeria.
iii) Fundamental human rights determine press freedom the questions was answered by data in table 4.3 which said that the idea of freedom to Nigeria journalist and citizens is a positive suggestion, the reason being that when ever fundamental human right is in operation, it automatically guarantees press freedom.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study is limited only to the survey of Babangida and Sani Abacha’s military regimes and Obasanjo’s Civilian administration. The data required for this study will be collected from the under graduate of political science, politicians who worked with the government and the general public in a randomly selection in Onitsha and Nnamdi Azikiwe University.
1.6 DEFINITION OF TERMS
It is important to state that conceptual definition refers to the actual meaning of terms as in dictionary; it is the general motion of a particular term. While operational definition refers to meaning as it suits the another or the way its would be in a content. It is given by the author. Note that the operational definition comes before conceptual terms.
MEDIA: Singular form of medium, it refers to the channel used in the transmission of message to the audiences, thus radio, television, newspaper and magazine. In this media is referred to all types of medium whether electronic or print.
According to oxford dictionary press freedom is the right of journalists to report events and express opinions freely. PRESS FREEDOM can be defines as right or free access to information and right to report news without government deprivations. It can also means the art of publishing material without submitting to government authority for permission.
PRESS: The press in this frame work refers to a print and electronic medium of communication. It can also refer to newspaper or periodicals collectively or publishing house.
FREEDOM: In this content, it means giving access, liberty not under compulsion or restraint by any authority.
JOURNALISM: The profession which involves working in a media house, sometimes it is regarded as press work. This is profession which antecedent entails conducting and writing for public journals.
REGIME: It refers to a period of a particular government in power, examples are that of Abacha and Abubakar. It means also a system of government or administration usually military.
HUMAN RIGHTS: These right which are inherent in the nature of human beings without which we cannot live as human beings. This refers to those principles and freedom given human being in order to satisfy nature.
TYRANNY: It means abuse of power, ruling authoritatively without the consent of the citizens. It refers to using power arbitrary and oppressively.
ETHICS: ethics of journalism refers to widely accepted standard of practice in the profession. It is the profession standard conduct in journalism.
DECREES: These are laws made by the military which are not constitutional. This is the order edict law by one authority.
PRESCRITION: Withdrawal of license and closure of news paper or magazine organization.
DETENTION: It means conferment of arrest due to an offence committed before trail in a court of law. It also means restriction of liberty especially of political provisional law; A rule of action establish by authority.
CIVIL LIBERTY ORGANIZATION (CLO): This is an organization in Nigeria which is formed to fight against the abuse of human rights. The incumbent president in Nigeria is Ayobe. It has other branches in other countries of the world.
UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS:
This is united nation commission where thirty articles of human rights are written for the whole worlds observation.
VANGUARD NESPAPER: A national newspaper publisher at Apapa Surellere of Lagos state in Nigeria.
TELL MAGAZINE: A democratic and truthful magazine published in Lagos, its truthful publication his mostly handed the editors and reporters in detention.
NEWSWATCH: This is a nationwide magazine published in Lagos its leadership should be up to 20,000 at a circulation world wide.