Freedom of Information Act and the Challenges Faced by Journalists


By Suleiman Ismail,  U13MM2032

The level of inhuman treatments media practitioners receive in a bid to  discharge their daily responsibilities is horrifying . It is a known fact that individual rights to freedom of expression is directly tied to freedom of the press. Hence as the forth estate of the realm, the press has an obligation which is to ensure maximum satisfaction of society’s need for constant flow of information. 
Press freedom in Nigeria has experienced a huge degree of neglects from  all strata of the Nigeria society leaving pressmen to wallow in pains such that the demand for the speedy passage of freedom of information bill  became justifiable. The signing of the bill into law in 2011, was to prevent people and journalist inclusive from unlawful treatments at the expense of information gathering. However, this provision of the law seems to be clashing with earlier provisions like the controversial public officers decree of 1984, the criminal code Act of 1990  and the official secret Act of 1962 which empowers government and it agencies to classify some form of documents from being accessed and disseminated to the public, thereby imposing extra-legal measures of government control over the press. 
These constitutional lacuna, led many to question the authenticity and the functionality of some aspects of freedom of information Act, as to how any application or request for information base on this provision will receive a favorable consideration when there is no clear evidence that the opposed official secret Act and others have been annulled. It is on this basis that media Scholars have argued that what the Act is set out to perfect is not being achieved. 
For many years, the inhuman acts against journalists seem not to be reducing as issues of brutality on journalists still take lead due to the fact that journalists have not been given the respect they deserve most especially in Nigeria . We have heard stories of journalists in the past who were harassed, tortured,  detained unlawfully and many killed for no just reason. Researches conducted so far shown that Nigeria appears to be among the worst countries  where journalists are faced with violent attacks of all kinds. Most times those in government abusively use their official position to intimidate and beat up pressmen at the slightest provocation. 
The worst among violence against journalists which spark reactions and condemnations from many Nigerians in the recent years include an assault carried out on Benedict Iwalaka, a photojournalist bloodied by a security personnel at the Lagos university teaching hospital.  Again the bombing of This Day newspaper houses in  Abuja and Kaduna which claim lives also instill fear and tension in the faces and minds of many journalists. There is no doubt that Nigeria has recorded a number of gruesome killings of some of her finest journalists. But with resilient and gallantry attitudes, journalists In Nigeria have demonstrated tireless efforts and have stood firm to their mandate. 
These wicked acts perpetrated by some  unscrupulous elements in our society must be put to an end as these zealous and able men of the press continue to give their best for the country. Nigerians must support the need to save journalists from this ugly situation and expedite action to curb this menace. media organisations on their part must define the zones where their reporters operate. For those who cover war and brutal criminal gangs, their organisations need to provide insurance cover in the event of injuries or death. 
The Nigeria government also have roles to play, as they must ensure that non-state actors who attack journalists are swiftly brought to justice. The government must also do away with repressive anti-media laws and be committed to open society and design fresh initiatives for journalists to safely carry out their noble duties without fear or favour.


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