. “The Press is the strong bridge connecting the authorities and the people. When it collapses not only would communication be lost, there would be chaos.- Christiana Amanpour.“
This article takes you through the important role of the press in the soceity, its constraints and the duty it has to play in the Political Emancipation in the Third world country like Nigeria.
In a democratic set up of governance the role of the Press media can in no way be underestimated or undermined, this is largely due to the watchdog role performed by it in shaping people’s believe and actions towards the activities of the government of the day.
It is widely known that in a democratic soceity, the government holds power in trust for the people wherein the people weild the power to remove them if they under perform.
However, this concept wouldn’t be practicable if the people are oblivious of the activities in government. Imagine if the Nigerian populace where unaware of the vast amount of common wealth being stolen by the country’s supposed leaders and recovered daily by the EFCC
Hence the need for a nexus connecting the people and the government.
It is this huge role performed by the media as an agent and its human tools (i.e. journalists) that earned it the appellation Fourth Echelon of the Realm based on the Montesquieu’s principle.
Nowadays media in general is occasionally called the
or fourth Estate in the Tripartite system, the other estates in modern democracies are often referred to branches of a legislature, the executive, and the judiciary.
Completing a cycle of checks and Balances wherein the people check the other arms of government..
In fact, press is the Pillar of democracies. It is the people’s open forum. Press makes such an environment where people get information and be prepared to take part in democracy for people’s participation is the foundation of democracy.
The Political Emancipation of every society lies hugely on how vibrant their press media is. In the government lies the key to the success and failure of every state and thus shouldn’t be toyed with.
So summarily, the PRESS brings to the people a statistics and result of how they were governed and the need for a change when needed. The American, Russian, and French Revolutions wouldnt have been successful without the effort of the Media.
After many years of military rule in Nigeria, democracy became a much needed endeavour and newspaper serves as a major tool through which the people were fully informed, educated, enlightened and mobilized to actively participate in the decision making. It not only gives us reliable information about towns and countries. Many social tools are exposed in one newspaper to attract the attention of the government, police and the citizens as a whole so that such evils may be immediately combated.
Many articles on tribalism, fraud, serious crimes, avarice, greed, and extravagance, which are disintegrating forces in the society are revealed to the people. For example, An Article by a journalists revealed that pressure for ever-higher test scores had led to apparent cheating by students and school administrators across the nation. The Chicago Tribune’s investigative series revealed how a deceptive, decades-long campaign by the chemical and tobacco industries brought toxic flame retardants into our homes and into our bodies, despite the fact that these dangerous chemicals are present in almost evey home.
Journalists have many roles to play commonly as; watchdogs, investigators, moderators, entertainers, analysts, informers, editors, commentators, and advertisers. They hold government leaders accountable to the people,
Publicizing issues that need attention,
Educating citizens so they can make informed decisions, and Connecting people with each other in civil society.
However, the media like other arms of democracy is not without its challenges of which are numerous in third world countries.They include The constraints and pressures from individuals, groups and organisations to administrative decisions and brown envelope Syndrome. Inducing reporters with money to publish their stories. Reporters and editors are also induced to kill stories when their publication would affect certain vested interests.
The Murtala/Obasanjo military regime tried to police the news media with the promulgation of decree 31 of 1978. The decree established the Nigerian Press Council to foster “the achievement and maintenance of the highest professional and commercial standards by the Nigerian press.
The more pernicious aspect of this constraint is found in a situation where editors and reporters are induced or to be more polite about it, persuaded to publish damaging stories about individuals and organisations. Here the public is not served the truth and by the time the truth is known, the damage has been done and someone’s integrity has been called into question.
ILLITERACY AND DISINTERESTEDNESS OF YOUTHS IN POLITICS:
The youths make more than 50% of the populace in Nigeria and yet play little or no service in respect to political and leadership positions owing to the fact that they are more concerned with more frivolous ideas, spending the major part of time engaging in flippant activities. A huge departure from the norm in the 20th century. The rest either are too illiterate or exposed to rule.
Over the years and in most countries, Journalists have been subjected to maltreatment, extradition and sometimes death in their duty to reveal the truth to the public, mostly during Military regime ours not being an exception. Equally the work of journalists are in pretence of scrutiny run under the carpet, and never to be heard of. Many works of Late Ken. Saro Wiwa
remain unpublished owing to it’s seizure by the then Military Regime.
SUPPRESSION OF INFORMATION:
Government agencies and officials are not always willing to be transparent, especially if there is no tradition of public scrutiny. More recently was the failure to Publish the names of looters by the Buhari government. Also take the neglect of the Niger Delta
for instance. There are certain basic facts that confirm that this neglect is a fact confirmed by devastated farmlands and the pollution of waters in the area. But have the federal government and the oil companies done anything over the years to remedy the peculiar problems of the area? Once you raise this question, you are instantly bombarded with all sorts of facts because facts are no longer dealth with as they are but facts as the parties to the dispute intend them for public consumption.
However, amidst all these challenges, the Press like the Alpine swallows has continued to carry out its round the clock duties and function as community activists, agenda-setters, and voices for the voiceless, public servants, keepers of public record, protectors of democracy, and promoters of public dialogue.
Equally most of these harsh constraints have been minimised in Nigeria owing to the passage of theFREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
(FOI). The Act was to strengthen the constitutional guarantee of freedom to receive and impact information and ideas. The law encourages investigative journalism, balance reporting, and objectivity, verification of stories, openness, transparency, fairness and accuracy in media presentation. This has helped in the areas of Government censorship on journalists. Non access to public information kept by government, public institution and private bodies.
Criticism and government suppression.
As we follow the evolving global trend let us always be politically Guided and equally be willing to rise to the signs and shouts of the Press in demand for True, fair and just leadership anywhere we find ourselves lest
“We will run out of patience very soon and we will resort to the barrel of a gun.”
I will like to conclude on this note that in every human society the successful conduct of her internal/external affairs depends largely on the extent of the reliability of government apparatus and the government successfully communicating, understanding and accepting themselves in a mutual and symbiotic relationship with the people.
Nwokike Henry .C is a Law student of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Anambra State.