Freedom of speech and Association in a democratic state is one which is regarded as very important right of people or citizens in a sovereign state. It’s one which must be guided jealously as any actions that negates this constitutional provisions is one which does not represent the tenets and values of democracy
The United Nation’s Human Right Charter makes a provision that encourages and Advocates for this provision. People must not be intimidated to air their opinion or express themselves inasmuch as what they say or express are not words of treason or ones that can poise serious security threat to the existence of a sovereign state.
The Freedom of expression and speech is not just limited to the people alone, it’s one which is also important to media streams in a democratic state. The Media are important part of a nation’s existence as it is through them that information regarding the activities of the government and other internal workings in a sovereign state is made available to all.
Through their reportage People that’s the electorate are well informed with news regarding the activities and dealings of their elected officials which in some sort of ways brings the people closer to the government.
The case of objective reportage which is one done with no sentiments attached or preference attached to any one in government helps the media to churn out credible news which are in no way tailored to favor one over the other or manipulate the emotions of the masses unduly.
The freedom of the press and the media is one which is advised by international bodies as well as pressure groups to aid the process of governance by making them more transparent and accountable in their dealings.
In cases when government do not give the press or the media a free pass to do their job objectively there is always a distortion of facts and realities which always leads to the undue manipulation and influence of the people.
It is however important and germane that the government comes to understand the need to give to the media and press the Freedom they need to dispatch their sole objectives which is to keep the people involved and informed.
Contextualizing this to the Nigerian realities, the decision of the Federal Government to place a fine of 2million each on some selected media stations in Nigeria over their roles in reporting the incidents that occurred on the 20th of October 2020 at the Lekki Toll gate which saw to the death of many Nigerians is one which negates the constitutional provisions which emphasis on the need of democracy practicing sovereign nations to give room for the freedom of the Press.
The federal government of Nigeria has argued that many of the contents circulated by these Media firms are a fake content which was instrumental in inciting violence which led to the eventual destruction of properties, loss of lives and civil unrest in major cities and town in the nation.
While the federal government of Nigeria has failed itself to produce the authentic video reports of the incidents that led to the shooting and eventual killing of many Nigerians by some men of the Nigerian Army; We must ask the Federal Government of Nigeria what moral authority it has to find these agencies.
It will be recalled that Peaceful Protesters has laid a siege peacefully in the front of the Lekki Toll gate where they were peacefully airing their respective demands from the government to see to it that the Nigerian Police Force is revamped and reformed.
Using the Nigerian Broadcasting Cooperation (NBC) to impede or obstruct the smooth running of media houses or stations in the country is one which must not be encouraged in a democratic state like Nigeria.
The Buhari led administration in Nigeria is fast building a reputation for itself as a government that does not like or embrace criticisms or anything that does not paint it in a good light.
While I do not imply or encourage media houses to engage of start baseless propaganda against the government, the Government must however recognize the right of media houses to objectively report it’s activities the way it’s without the government appearing to unduly influence the process.
What the Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari is a testament of it is perchance not to condone objective and critical press working. This is another attempt to intimidate the nation’s press and media houses to always do their bidding even if such biddings are not right.
It will be recalled that during the Black Lives Matter in the United States of America, media houses used video footages and pictures shared by the citizens on social media and the American government did not fine then nor persecute them for it.
This is against what happened in Nigeria as ARISE TV, Channels Television and the African Independent Television (AIT) are being fined over there reportage of the protest and mass killing in Lekki Toll gate.
This is an affront on the freedom of the press in Nigeria, Popular Newspaper brand, The Punch Newspaper labels President Muhammadu Buhari as General Muhammadu Buhari (RTD) over its claim of the president autocratic tendency.
There’s a need to condemn acts such as this as they do not showcase the true beauty of our democratic System. If we say that we truly practice a democratic System in Nigeria then we must be able to ensure that we follow to the letter it is provisions.
In the interest of the good people of Nigeria and also as an act of sustaining our democratic outlook it’s important that the Federal Government withdraw these fines as it sets a bad precedents among us in our practice of democracy.
There’s a need for us to ensure that we protect the democratic outlook of the Nigerian society, to do anything otherwise implies to set the nation to another state of autocracy which must be discouraged at all times
By Marcus Amudipe