EVALUATION OF AWARENESS AND UTILIZATION OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT, 2011, BY BROADCAST JOURNALISTS’ IN KOGI STATE
1.1 Background to the Study
Free access to relevant information is central to effective journalism practice globally. Information is to journalism what raw products are to manufacturers. Journalists need information from the society to enable them refine it and return same to the society with the ultimate aim of making the society a better place. The right to information has been given a boost by the United Nations Universal Declaration of
Human Rights (1948) article 19 which states “Everyone has the right to Freedom of opinion and expression: this rights includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria equally empowers the press in section 22 when it states ‘‘The press, radio television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people’’ Also, section 39 of the same constitution equally states ‘‘Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.’ However, what the constitution gave in section 39, it took in section 45 when it writes ‘‘Nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.’ This means, the government can bring up any law and claim it is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. Gever and Tyegyu (2015,p.33) corroboratively writes “One of the challenges confronting the practice of journalism globally is the issue of access to information. Journalism is founded on information gathering, processing and dissemination” It was in an attempt to promote access to information that the freedom of information bill (as it was known then) was initiated. The bill was initiated in 1993 by three different organisations, working independently of each other. They are Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), which agreed to work together on a campaign for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act (Freedom of Information Coalition 2015). Members of the setup by the different bodies met with the then Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa, to secure his support for the enactment of the draft into law. Although he was in principle supportive of the idea, it was clear that he lacked the political influence within the Abacha regime to push the draft through. The political situation in Nigeria deteriorated shortly afterwards as the Abacha regime became more repressive and brutal and the law was never passed. 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.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.