AN APPRAISAL OF PRESS FREEDOM DURING THE “ENDSARS” PROTEST IN PLATEAU STATE

AN APPRAISAL OF PRESS FREEDOM DURING THE “ENDSARS” PROTEST IN PLATEAU STATE

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Press freedom are tumultuous and tumultuous institutions that serve as platforms for power struggles in the public sphere. They provide a forum for public debate on current events and have a large readership. The press is still an important aspect of democracy and popular participation around the world. President George W. Bush (2008) stated on World Press Freedom Day that press freedom is established in the first amendment of the United States Constitution, which recognizes press freedom of speech as a requirement for a free society. Similarly, Nigerian administrations have included journalistic freedom in their constitutions. ‘Every person shall have the right to press freedom of expression, including the freedom to have opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference,’ according to Section 24 (1) of Nigeria’s 1960 Constitution (Akinola 1998). The right to freedom of expression and the press is also stated in Section 39 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999).

The dynamic between the many cultural and ideological elements affecting press freedom in Nigeria reflects the view that the press freedom is an important factor in the democratic environment (Merrill 1974). According to Abati (1998), the breadth of press freedom in Nigeria is determined by the political system in place. Democracy, on the other hand, has created opportunities for press organizations all around the world to survive.

To provide a framework for understanding the study, the term “free press” or “press freedom” is defined as the absence of restrictions on the media as well as the presence of conditions that enable the dissemination of a diverse range of ideas and opinions to a relatively large audience, such as the enforced right of access to newspapers and radio stations. The necessity for this arises from the fact that, while practically every constitution in the world guarantees press freedom, each country’s traditions and requirements have caused it to be interpreted differently (Ogbondah, undated).

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To put it another way, experts from Africa, Asia, and South America have differing perspectives on the function of the press and the concept of press freedom. Diego and Ruth (2016), for example, argue that press freedom is a pillar of democratic institutions. Freedom of information is “a pillar of democracy,” according to Freedom House (2015), and “threats to media freedom… offer a sharp challenge to democratic values” (p.21). Meanwhile, according to Bamidele (2013), press freedom is the weapon that protects journalists and other media workers from all sorts of impunity in its genuine sense. Their differing ideas reflect the wide range of views on what press freedom entails. As a result, a high level of press freedom is required for the development of inclusive knowledge societies and democracies, as well as the promotion of discourse, peace, and good governance. To secure the safety of journalists and to eliminate impunity and violations of human rights, a strong press freedom is required. It is impossible to have an informed, active, and engaged public without press freedom and sufficient protection for journalists (Okunna & Popoola, 2015). Further on the importance of press freedom, Wolfenson (1999), cited in Ciboh (2014), said: “A free press is not a luxury. Because you can’t enfranchise poor people, if they don’t have a right to expression, if there isn’t a searchlight on corruption and inequitable practices, you can’t build the public consensus needed to bring about change, you can’t construct the public consensus needed to bring about change” (p.1).

Bamidele (2013) agreed, stating that “press freedom is a cornerstone for human rights, a keystone that guarantees other freedoms, a supporter of openness and good governance that ensures the rule of law” (p.19). Lowenstein (1966), referenced in Ogbondah (undated), stated: “A truly free press is one in which newspapers, journals, news agencies, books, radio, and television have absolute independence and critical ability, save for minor libel and obscenity restrictions.” There is no concentrated ownership, marginal economic units, or organized self-regulation in a truly free press. A press that is entirely controlled lacks independence and critical skills. Government, self-regulatory authorities, or concentrated ownership have complete control over newspapers, magazines, books, news agencies, radio, and television under it” (p.10-11).

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It is critical to emphasize that the press’s professional role is that of a society watchdog (Udomisor & Kenneth, 2013). Its ability to act as a watchdog over the government, monitoring and investigating the actions of those in power and informing citizens about abuses of power, specifically through reporting of their misdeeds so that the perpetrators can be punished, sanctioned, and deterred, has been recognized as a catalyst for press freedom and development since then. It’s no surprise that Okoro and Chinweobo-Onuoha (2013) see the press as a valuable weapon for information transmission, social mobilization, and control, as well as a method of public education and development, and as such a vital institution that affects people’s lives. They stated that this might be accomplished through the use of the press as a tool.

As democratic countries have replaced authoritarian regimes in Africa, the media environment has shifted dramatically, with a massive increase in the number of press organizations (Karikari 2004). The number and range of journalistic organizations in Iraq increased dramatically after Saddam Hussein’s administration fell in April 2003. Kim and Hama-Saeed (2008) discovered that previous to the Western invasion, Iraqi journalistic organizations were operating under various government restraints as well as pressures from political parties and religious groups, based on in-depth interviews with 22 Iraqi journalists working in the country. Terrorists and extremists repeatedly intimidated Iraqi journalists, they discovered. Currently, the survival of Iraq’s young press organizations is predicated on the country’s political uncertainty, sectarian warfare, and foreign involvement. The shift from military to civilian rule in Nigeria from 1979 to 1983, and after 1999, has led in an increase in the number of news organizations, similar to the situation in Iraq. In 1999, Nigeria had two government-controlled television stations, fourteen licensed private television stations, eighty-two AM radio stations, thirty-five FM radio stations, and eleven short-wave radio stations (Hudgens and Trillo 1999).

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