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Press Freedom

Press Freedom

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Published by: FAITHWISEDOM on Apr 13, 2010
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05/30/2014

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THE RIDDLE BEHIND PRESS FREEDOM IN NIGERIAIFEANYI ADIGWELAGOS STATE UNIVERSITY, SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATION, LAGOS, NIGERIAFAITHWISEDOM@YAHOO.CO.UK 
Communication critics assert that Freedom of the Press is Freedom of the Citizen, if communication and information is free to all and made available at any time, it abuse would beon the increase. Nevertheless, it can be contended that freedom of the press in Nigeria is stillseen as an illusion as those who oppose the bill that will enable free press in Nigeria believesthat the bill will not only promote freedom of information in Nigeria but transparency andopenness in governance and government is antithetical to their rapacious and parochial interests.(Olaiya, 2009).In the same vein, Mayor (1998) contends that Freedom of expression is no abstract or passiveright. To have meaning, it has to be used – used constantly, used responsibly, used well. Mayor (1998) upholds that the struggle to press freedom is not only a difficult task, but a permanentlyon-going one. He further stated that we all need the liberating power of information. It isignorance which sows the seeds of hatred, division and conflict. The free flow of informationmakes us see there is just one world. One we all live in. Without press freedom - democracy,tolerance and peace will never be safe. We have to remain vigilant: always ready to oppose pressure, manipulation, censorship and other violations of press freedom. Mayor (1998).Why is it that press freedom will always be vulnerable? Mayor cited Gerald Winstanley,“Freedom is the Man that will turn the world upside down, therefore no wonder he has enemies”.To adapt those words: - therefore no wonder that the temptation to curb press freedom will
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always be there. A newspaper article may not turn the world upside down - but it can challengeauthority and upset the status quo. Undemocratic regimes may respond with jail or censorship. Ina democracy, government and public or private institutions may try to discourage reports onsensitive information.But in spite of this, progress is made, thanks to the lucidity and courage of journalists. Althoughthe fight for press freedom is begun anew each day around the world, each victory consolidatesthe base on which it is built. Indeed, press freedom is one of the corner-stones of democracy.Press freedom could be said to be the ‘life-wire’ for any growing democracy. Beyond thatfreedom of the press could be seen as a channel that allows free flow of ‘blood’ to and fro in theheart. It could be noted here that the ‘heart’ is democracy and ‘blood’ is the press. Just imagine!If there is any obstruction or hindrance in the flow of blood it could lead to disorder in the entiresystem.The right of access to information held by Governments and public authorities remains a tool for  promoting accountability in governance and as well an essential component of the right tofreedom of expression. It, therefore, unequivocally declared that the importance of public accessto official information, both in promoting transparency and accountable governance and inencouraging the full participation of citizens in the democratic process is still in the hands of thegovernment in order to perpetuate justice. However, the benefits such access can bring includethe facilitation of public participation in public affairs, enhancing the accountability of government, providing a powerful aid in the fight against corruption as well as being a keylivelihood and development issue.
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Schmidt (2007) argues that the media holds a great potential as a resource for press freedom andfreedom of expression. He went further to proclaim that the media serve as a platform for dialogue across borders and allow for innovative approaches to the distribution and acquisitionof knowledge.Conversely, in the words of Nelson Mandela, a world acclaimed African statesman of this era:“A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy and the pressmust be free from state interference and must have sufficient independence from vested intereststo be bold and inquiring without fear and favour. It is only a free press that can temper anygovernment to amass power at the expense of the citizen and act as a vigilant watch dog of the public interest against the abuse of power by persons in government”Interestingly, access to information would guarantee popular participation in governance, studieshave shown that freedom of information encourage people-centre policy by giving the citizens anactive role in participatory governanceThe journey for press freedom in Nigeria continues to linger even though freedom of the press isthe cornerstone upon which democracy rests. It is established that freedom of information iscrucial for a good society. Former American president Thomas Jefferson had articulated that‘information is the currency of democracy’, in the same vein, his counterpart James Madison hadexpanded it by noting that ‘knowledge will forever govern ignorance. Nevertheless the struggle for freedom of the press in Africa, Nigeria in particular, is lookingincreasingly like a guerrilla war between press freedom advocates and autocratic leaders whoclaim they support press freedom but whose actions contradict their assertions. Yet, the freedomof information bill, which will activate the free flow of information in Nigeria press, is still a
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