Influence Of Legislation On The Nigeria Print Journalism

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

Influence Of Legislation On The Nigeria Print Journalism


Legislation is not new to the Nigerian press. What is new is the ways in which various governments and individuals try to hide under some of these laws to cripple the job of the Nigerian journalists. This is the main thrust behind this research which is centered on finding the effects of press laws on journalistic practice in Nigeria with a view to unraveling those laws that tends to reduce the power of journalists with a study on three newspapers in Port-Harcourt in the South-South Region of Nigeria. The study adopted the survey method using three hundred media personnel as its respondents. Findings from the study indicates that the Nigerian media landscape still groans under the hard effects of obnoxious press laws and this has also affected the moral and ethical standard of the profession. The officials secrets act remains the greatest fear of the Nigerian journalists and the provision of the Nigerian 1999 constitution was found to be contradictory. Various literatures on the subject of research were also reviewed in the cause of the research. Suggestion were made for further research.

Table of Content

Chapter One:


  • 1.1 Background of the study
  • 1.2 Statement of the problem
  • 1.3 Objective of the study
  • 1.4 Research questions
  • 1.5 Significance of the study
  • 1.6 Scope of the study
  • 1.7 Limitation of the study
  • 1.8 Definition of terms
  • 1.9 Organizations of the study

Chapter Two:

Review of Literature

  • 2.1 Conceptual Framework
  • 2.2 Theoretical Framework
  • 2.3 Empirical Review

Chapter Three:

Research Methodology

  • 3.1 Research Design
  • 3.2 Population of the study
  • 3.3 Sample size determination
  • 3.4 Sample size selection technique and procedure
  • 3.5 Research Instrument and Administration
  • 3.6 Method of data collection
  • 3.7 Method of data analysis
  • 3.8 Validity of the study
  • 3.9 Reliability of the study
  • 3.10 Ethical consideration

Chapter Four:

Data Presentation and Analysis

  • 4.1 Data Presentation
  • 4.2 Analysis of Data
  • 4.3 Answering Research Questions
  • 4.4 Interpretation of Result

Chapter Five:

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

  • 5.1 Summary
  • 5.2 Conclusion
  • 5.3 Recommendation
  • References

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

This study examines the influence of legislation on Nigerian print journalist, a study of Tide, Niger Delta Standard, and Independent Monitor Newspapers in Port Harcourt. Reporters have been facing a lot of constraints in carrying out their duties, thereby impacting negatively on the media in Nigeria, because of Nigerian laws that do not give them free hands of executing their functions.

Naturally, the concept of law raises the question: what is law? According to Redmond as cited by Okoro and Okolie (2004:1) Law is defined as “a rule to which actions conforms or should conform”. Greenwood and Welsh (1985:3) also defined law as “the set of rules by which the citizens of a country regulate their conduct in relation to their fellow citizens and to the state. Ekwelukwa (2004:40) opines that:

Press law is the law of ethics of communication. It is the law affecting practice of journalism. It deals with publications issuing from the press and affects the press and indeed the journalists in particular. It is the law that deals with law censorship. Freedom of the press as it relates to defamation, that is to say: libel and slander, copyrights, national security, sedition, parliamentary and judicial precedents, obscenity civil suits etc.

Furthermore he stresses that “the press can be defined as an establishment for printing and publishing of books, magazine, Newspapers”, etc. It can also be defined as the personnel of an establishment for printing of books newspapers, periodicals” etc. and that press law is a set of rules that exist in human society for regulating the conduct of press men, resolving conflicts and avoiding confrontations. These include

  1. Publication of offensive materials and the law.
  2. Rule of prior restraint
  3. The right to speak
  4. Freedom of speech and the press
  5. Press freedom of criticism
  6. The judiciary and the press
  7. Detention of persons
  8. The 1962 Act
  9. Spying
  10. Sedition
  11. The press council decree disputed section
  12. Media ownership
  13. Code of conduct, malicious falsehood, contempt of court, obscenity, adversity law, libel, slander, and copyright publications etc.

The summary of these laws lies in the fact that they affect the practice of journalism in Nigeria.

According to Mahatama Ghandi as quoted in Yalaju (2001: 185) that the sole aim of the press is service. The media functions include: national integration, cultural promotion, surveillance, economic enhancement, education, act as the peoples parliament information dissemination, agenda setting and installation and sustenance of democracy. It is at the process of carrying out these functions that they are faced with so many pathetic situations like:

  1. Killing of journalists
  2. Seizure of press equipment
  3. Closure of media houses
  4. Arrest and detention of journalists
  5. Imprisonment of journalists etc.

The Nigerian print media are faced with constitutional and political constraints which therefore are negatively affecting the performance of the mass media, in Nigeria they make obnoxious laws and manipulate them to achieve their selfish ends.

The professional rule cannot be elevated into a legal rule e.g. in the case of AG vs. Mucheland and Foster the journalist were imprisoned for refusing to identify their sources before the tribunal of inquiry into the vessels spy affair. So there was no way they could identify the sources because of the ethics of the profession.

Therefore the provisions of the right to freedom of the press is curtailed by the contents of section 39(3) which states that “nothing in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justified in a democratic society for the purpose of preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, so the press has no absolute right to confidentiality of the source of information.

In 1993 presidential election the press became the major victim of the administration. The Nigerian press had to go underground and practiced what is known as “guerrilla journalism”. Magazine such as Tell, The News and The Tempo had a rough time with Abacha security agents. Many pressmen were arrested, detained, jailed, even killed, more importantly disturbing and frightening was the framed-up coup series in which journalist were implicated, pressmen suffered various degree of persecution. Section 39 subsection (ii) which states in part that “provided that no person, other than the government of the federation or a state or any other person or body authorized by the president to fulfillment of conditions laid down by an act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for any purpose whatsoever” should be amended to reflect the current trends of privatization instead of retaining a bogus provision which government for political reasons may use to deny individuals, groups, states the legal right to own a broadcast or wireless station.

Journalist had always been taken to court for defamation, either by libel or slander in the process of carrying out its official function. Nigeria is not practicing a full democracy because a journalist who reports an issue against the government; stands the risk of been arrested and charged to court for official secret act. The awesome aspect of Decree No. 1984 was use in suppressing the press through unlawful arrest, search, indefinite detention of journalist, closure of media houses and the ouster of courts jurisdiction.

Official Secrets Act 1962 provides that to transmit any classified matter to a person whom he is not authorized on behalf of government to transmit it shall be guilty of an offence. So, in sensitizing what they publish, they serve themselves the risk of being used, and once a published material is challenged, the process of litigation is set for motion. The government should realize that,the media are partners towards nation building and development. For the media to contribute their quota, they need better working relations, which can only be guaranteed by the constitution, through a free press. The media is one of the essential machineries for upholding the rule of law in Nigeria. truth is needed at all times and in every society. It is the truth that leads to real progress as noted by Ewelukwa (2004: 85). That, at the course of pursuing the truth, they are been harassed, intimidated and imprisoned for either defamation or any other allegation, thereby creating unfavourable situation for the press”. It is on these note that Yalaju (2001: 185) states that:

The newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and collective agitation, but also a collective organizer. In the respect, it can be compared with scaffolding put around a building under construction, it indicated the shape the building will have, makes communication between the various building works easier, helps the workers to distribute the work and to be aware of the general results jointly achieved by the organized works.

The crusade for freedom of expression and the press is as old as government itself. The press has been described as the fourth Estate of the Realm, meaning that the press ought to be on equal pedestal with the other estate the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. According to Yakubu (2003:11) he buttress that “the extent to which the press of a nation can go in achieving its noble objectives depends on each society. So fundamental is the role of the press that a place have been found for it in the Nigerian Constitution. Section 39 of the 1999 constitution tagged |Right to freedom of expression and the press” provides:

(i) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, inclusively freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impact ideas and information without interference. Furthermore section 22 of the 1999 constitution also provides that “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 up hold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.

So, freedom of speech means no more than speech from which illegal utterances are subtracted from press freedom or liberty of the press in absence of political censorship in the press or other media. It would be seen that government is afraid of criticism hence the restriction on press freedom. Based on this premises we can rightly observe that, press criticism is what government fears. For the purpose of preventing the disclosure of information received, there are some laws that are contradicting to the freedom of the press. section 4(1) of the 1999 constitution provides that “any person who whether for gain or not distributes or progress any article to be obscene for the purpose of the Act Commits an offence punishable on conviction by the fine of not exceeding N200 or by imprisonment for a term of not exceeding three years or by both”. Therefore constitutional provisions of Nigeria are not enough to protect the press and to guarantee effective press freedom, and there is no point having freedom of the press if you don‟t use it.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Media laws have been the greatest albatross to journalistic practice in Nigeria. From the colonial times to the modern journalistic era, the laws have often act as restriction on the much avowed talk about press freedom. Thus, some of the laws restrict the journalist right to secure information that may be of public interest. Even when the journalist goes the extra-mile to seek vital information about government activities which are tagged official secrets but against the interest of the state, he could be guilty of treason. Similarly, a fair criticism of the government policies and programmes could be calculated to be seditions, depending on the nature of the man in the saddle of leadership. In recent times, comment made about the president faring health has brought a defamation litigation against the management of the leadership newspaper. In the last democratic dispensation, comment made by Gbenga Aruleba, presenter of „FOCOS Nigeria‟ on AIT about the acclaimed new presidential jet which according to him did not appear new due to seditions charges against him, infact the journalist is daily constrained, living him with little freedom to really carryout his constitutional obligation to the state. The laws have denied and deprive the press of the capacity to carry out its true mandate. The problems therefore necessitate this study, the effect of media laws on Nigerian print media. In other words, what are the effect of media laws on Nigeria print media with particular reference to the newspapers under study.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this study is to examine the influence of legislation on the Nigeria print journalism.

Specifically, The study will be guided by the following objectives:

  1. To determine the effect, Nigerian laws have made on the print media that do not give room for journalists to carry out their work effectively.
  2. To determine the ways in which these laws affect journalistic practice.
  3. To determine the ways in which these media laws affect objectivity of the work of the journalist and to a large extent those in the print media.
  4. To determine what can be done to correct these obnoxious laws.

1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions were formulated to guide the study.

  1. What effect have Nigerian laws made on the print media that do not give room for journalist to carry out their work effectively?
  2. In which ways do these laws affect the journalistic profession and the work of the press?
  3. In which ways do these laws affect the objectivity of the work of the journalist and to a large extent the print media?
  4. What can be done to correct these obnoxious laws?

1.5 Significance of the Study

  1. This study will contribute in the already existing literature in area of press freedom in Nigeria.
  2. It will further provide information, data that will help to review those laws that are detrimental to journalist profession.
  3. It will also create awareness on the implication of the laws that are harmful to the Nigerian mass media.
  4. It will be useful for researchers that may wish to research on press laws.
  5. The findings of the study will highlight to Nigerian‟s the effect and causes of media laws in Nigeria and how it affect performance of the media in Nigeria.

1.6 Scope of the Study

Thisstudy on the influence of legislation on the Nigeria print journalism.It is focused on the media laws in Nigeria and how it influences the operations of print media; this study used three print media houses in PortHarcourt in the South-South Region of Nigeria.

1.7 Limitations of the Study

Survey research has been rated as a very reliable method of generating relevant data needed for study, in a natural setting. Though it has been criticized by the words of Okoro (2001:39) that opinions of respondents are subject to change from time to time; subject to sampling error, and subject to biased and subjective information. Beside, the researcher found out that print media practitioners are not easily accessible, because of the nature of their job. They are always on the more in pursuit of news, facts or events. So, getting them to sit down and fill the copies of the questionnaires may not be an easy task. This may hinder the research work.

Furthermore, the researcher may be constraints by finance and time which may not allow a thorough and in-depth research work.

1.8 Definition of Terms

1. Ethics:

The lay down principles of the journalist profession. The rules that guide the work of the journalist.

2. Information:

Is the dissemination of news so that people can be acquainted with the day to day happening.

3. Laws:

As used in this paper are the rules or the inhibitions that prevent free access to, and publication of information. That is, all legal restraint to gathering and dissemination of information.

4. Media:

Are the various channels through which information is dispersed to a mass audience. In this case, the print channels.

5. Obnoxious:

An offensive law that is antagonistic to the work of the journalist. It has a negative impact on the journalist activities.

1.9 Organizations of the Study

The chapter one consist of the introductory part of the study which includes the study background, the statement of the research problem, the study objective and scope of the study.

The second chapter is a critical review of other literatures relevant to the study and its objectives including the theoretical framework for the study. While the third chapter is methods of data collection, sampling and data analysis used in conducting the study. The fourth chapter centres around the research findings including an analysis of how it relates to previous findings. The fifth chapter consists of the summary of findings, conclusion and recommendations base on the study objectives.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Preamble

The highlight of this research is hereby presented by way of a summary from which a conclusion was drawn. In addition, a preferential package of recommendations would be given based on the findings revealed in this study.

5.2 Summary of Findings

The study was directed at finding out the Influence Of Legislation On The Nigeria Print Journalism with a study on three newspapers in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Thus, related literatures were reviewed as well as questionnaire administered. Arising from all these, it was revealed that media laws have a great effect on the Nigerian press and this was found to be affecting the press in diverse ways.

The methodology used for this study was the research survey method. It was designed to enable the researcher discover how legislation affect the print industry in Nigeria. Three hundred copies of questionnaire were used in this study and it was designed in a manner that elicited answers to research questions.

Thus, the research questions posed were all answered and data collected and analysed with the use of tables.

5.3 Conclusion

The press can be defined as an establishment for printing and publishing of books, magazine, Newspapers, etc. It can also be defined as the personnel of an establishment for printing of books newspapers, periodicals. Press law is a set of rules that exists in human society for regulating the conduct of pressmen, resolving conflicts and avoiding confrontations.

The Nigerian print media are faced with constitutional and political constraints which therefore are negatively affecting the performance of the mass media in Nigeria as government and media owners have consistently made obnoxious laws and manipulated them to their personal aggrandisement.

The role of the media in the education and dissemination of information cannot be overemphasized, thus, this study after thorough research, critically came to the conclusion that the media in Nigeria needs to be given a second look with a view to improving its present performance and credibility.

The researcher concludes that such effect of media laws on the Nigerian press as being witnessed today constraints suffered by the media organizations under study are not peculiar to them alone as this is the fate of media organisations in Nigeria be it private or government owned.

In addition, the researcher concluded that there are media organisations and owners who do not encourage or motivate their staff enough to perform their duties as they often make certain laws in addition to the existing ones which are already compounding the job of journalists. The latter are the problems of overbearing political effect on the media to satisfy the political interest of their proprietors and their associates, as well as making the media to turn into the mouthpiece of a few individuals in the society.

5.4 Recommendations

No doubt, a research involves an investigation geared towards increasing knowledge and providing ideas to solve problems. From this information, coupled with an enthusiastic desire to ensure confirmatory evidence on this study, particularly in the aspect of achieving a greater feeling of certainty for likely purpose of making generalisation in the future; the researcher, therefore, consider it fit and essential to make some useful recommendations:

Arising from the research findings, the researcher wishes to make the following recommendations.

  1. Government should stop unnecessary and undue interference in the media.
  2. Unnecessary Censorship in the form of media laws or decrees should be discouraged by the media owners and government and when it is inevitable, it should be left for the media professionals to determine.
  3. Objectivity and fairness should be the watch word of the Nigerian press in order to retain readership and even improve on their market share.
  4. Media men should be properly motivated and encouraged to perform their public service duties to the people of Nigeria and must not be gagged with any obnoxious law.
  5. Well articulated editorial policies capable of placing the Nigerian press in the same pedestal as their counterparts in other developed and developing nations should be adopted and maintained in order to give the Nigerian Press a sense of direction.
  6. Press and media organisations should be encouraged to perform their duties ultimately and protect journalists who are often the targets or certain repressive governments

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