Effect of Military Dictatorship on the Nigeria Mass Media
A lot has been written in the concept of the freedom of the press in Nigeria and the subsequent harassment, arrest, detention, assassination and trial of journalist in military tribunals. The research rallied for materials on mass communication, books, magazines, newspapers and electronic media hence most of them or the treatment meted on mass media practitioners but not specifically on judgments drawn from the assessment of the mass media social responsibility between the two. This is necessary because the treatment meted on the practitioners are read on newspapers and magazines but not from a particular book.
Some of the review are the subsequent harassment arrest, detention and assassination of mass media practitioners, and the closure of most media houses. At all these are done in the various libraries in Enugu, including that in IMT Enugu.
1.2 THE REVIEW.
Willbur Schramm in 1904 defined press freedom as the relative absence of government interference on the media of mass communication.
He also identified forms of governmental control of the media in developing countries as ranging from state ownership of newspapers, economic pressures by the government on the press, like denial of importance for newsprint, political censorship restriction on newspaper criticism of government policies and government ownership of electronic media put succinctly. Willnur schramm was of the view that the press should be given a free hand to import newsprint while the electronic media should be owned by individuals and allow them to criticize government policies. According to Nnamdi Azikiwe, the concept freedom of the press expresses a denotation and implies a connotation.
Denotatively, it means the right to publish any printed matter, this includes the right to obtain, impart and disseminate information or ideas contained in print matter. On the other hand, the connotation of the concept takes into consideration an implication that in any democratic society. The exercise of nay right is not absolute but reliable. Therefore in this context freedom of the mass media implies that the right to obtain, impart or convey ideas or information through the medium of the press and other mass media according to laws (Azikiwe 1978)
These views represents the western European meaning of press freedom. The commonly ex-present rational for a minimum restraints of freedom of expression is that the truth of any matter may be approached most closely only by allowing the free competition of various ideas.
The Hatchions Commission in 1947 summed up this argument thus:
“Civilized society is a working of ideas. It lives and charges by the consumption of ideas which its members have are available for the examination. It must guarantee freedom of expression to the end that all adventitious hindrances to the flow of ideas shall be removed….
Valuable ideas may be put forth first in forms that are crude, indefensible or even dangerous. They need the chance to develop through free criticisms as well as the chance to survive on the basis of the ultimate work. Hence the man who publishes ideas require special protection (the commission on freedom of the press 1947)
In accessing press freedom. Joseph Belmolokron and C. De Aguomba in their contribution to the book “Mass communication and National Development” edited by Ikechukwu Nwosu asserted that the concept of press freedom developed right from the time printing press was invented for countries ago. They also stated that since that time, this was always the attempt of those who have control of political authority to create banners against the free flow of an information which they believe could threaten their role. This for the printer and writers they could not operate without license from the authorities.
As often expected, freedom if the press is always, assailed by those who control power and wants the status quo maintained. They fear that allowing people to write freely an day what they like about the state affairs could jeopardize the position of the incurs and bring them into conflict with the masses.
However, since these are conflicting interest among men in the society, there is no absolute freedom.
But those basic freedom is what man in his long history has struggled to achieved. And the press occupying a key role in the struggle for achievement of the basic freedom is always a particular target.
Guardian on Friday June 15 1990 cried out when the pressure was very high on the press thus:
“Never before has the Nigerian press come under the present level of attack, so open and so sustained has been the attack that even most audience supporters of the administration have begin to slower and whisper disapproval when it was widely acclaimed that no other administration ever engaged the type of press support that the Babangida administration enjoyed, yet ironically it was during Babangida administration that the press suffered a great deal”
this situation need no further explanation as it was during Babangida regime in 1986 that the Editor-in-chief of News watch magazine Dele Giwa was killed through a letter bomb following the report that he had to publish that had to do with his regime.
In another report by News watch magazine of November 3 1997, the magazine was send to court by the information minister, Chief Walter Ofonaforo. This was because of a publication by the magazine over the sale of No13 cooper Road, Ikoyi Lagos, a residential property originally owned by Daily Times of Nigeria (DTN) plc.
For a related development, Godwin Abroko editor of week magazine was arrested in December 1996 following the publication a publication in what he described as a cold-war going on between Ishaya Bamaiyi a major General and former chief of Army staff, COAS and Yakubu Muazu a colonel and former military administrators of Sokoto state, over the letters appointment by the late General Sani Abacha as commander of the Briyade of Guand.. “THE WEEK” said that Bamaiyi has campaigned against the appointment on the grands that Miazu did not possess the qualities required of an officer to head the brigard of guards the elite presidential guads. Miazu was said to have won Abacha’s heart for the role h played in foiling the Gideon Okars coup of April 20 1990. He (maiazu) led the team that regained the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) Ikoyi.
Felix Chukwu a lieutenant colonel and former Acting Director of Nigeria Army public Relation Department was reported as having said on March 6, 1997 that Abacha would remain in detention until investigation was concluded.
There was also an incident in fact a very remarkable one which will remain as a scar on journalism practitioners. This was on the Sunday may 26, 1996 case a day of persecution for journalists. This day will always remain significant as it was the day that a former staff corresponding of the Guardian Newspaper was declared missing. He also traveled to his home town, Obidum in Imo state on his way back to Lagos.. through Owerrri he lost in transist. The correspondent Chinedu Offoaro is however believed to have been held hostage or abducted at the orders of the ruling military dictators.
The fight against journalists did not end there. There was another report carried by “Punch Newspaper of August 4 1997
“Since 1993, the four um of masses Kunce Ayibate, George, Ben Charles Obi and Mr. Christ Anyanwua have been in detention in various parts of the country serving 15 years jail sentence imposed after trial by a special military tribunal”
The four journalist in questions were however tried and sentenced by a special military tribunal following report their magazine carried on the foiled Gwadube coup of 1995
Mr. Bugurd Kaltho of the News magazine had also been reported missing since mid-1996 and his where about still remain unknown admits belkiefs that he may been detained in communicate by agent of the state.
The Punch further said that :
“These acts of hostility is central aspect of the hinder contempt of human right which the present military government had displaced since coming into power”
With the proposed press court and the establishment of the National mass media commission. They may be no hiding place for journalist. The then minister of information and culture Dr. Walter Ofonagoro maintained that the provision of Decree 43 which prescribed almost impossible conditions of the practitioners of journalism would still be enforced. Part of the provision of the decree regarded by many as dracoman are a payment of #250,000 deposit against fines and damages and #100,00 registration fees.
Under the public officer (protection against false Accusation) Decree 4 of 1984 the two of Tunde Thompsaon and Nduka Irabor then of the Guardian were jailed for their repports as diplomatic posing. Ben Akparanta, a reporter with the same paper by 1991 has been locked up all different police stations and even threatened to be shot by the police for his reports. in 1993, about 50 incident were recorded. Majority of the victims are from the News and Tell magazine over their un-comprising stance against military dictatorships.
This is aside nwasions and closure of media houses by security agents.
In 1994, incidents of physical assaults on journalist became rampant. In January of the same year, Femi Olabode of the “Evening Times” was reported to have been physically attacked by their technical adviser of the National Team Mr. Clemens Westerhof. Kayide Oliatan sketches correspondent in Kano was manhandled and drilled by security agents at the government house. His Daily Times counterpart Sola Adebayo was beaten up by soldiers attached to the then Delta state military Administrator Colonel Bassey Asugioo.
February witnessed two assaults on practitioners Mr. Martin Akiriyan of Vanguard was brutally assaulted by armed policemen. They sprayed tear gas in his face and punched him in several places while Ayekoli of National Concord was beaten up by the police orderly attached to Justice moshood Ohihbani for taking notes in the court during a ruling on the “Oshome iant deals
Other cases indicate. The locking of Bola Bolawale, then editor of the Punch by security operatives for 72 hours manhandled of a photo journalist with the Heard Newspaper and arrest damage of camera and hospitalization of the Moshood Abiola in Abuja.same year, three journalist David Atelex, Ogun state correspondent of Daily Times Bolayi Arobola of Ogun state Broadcasting Corporation OGBC and Omonwunmi Akintola of the Nigeria Tribune were bundled into a pick-up van during the coverage of a rally in Abeokuta. The year also witnessed the closure of “Guardian” Concord and punch which threw thousands of journalist into the job market even as the government continues to orchestrate the fact that Nigerian press is the freest in Africa, experiences of practitioners indicate otherwise.
In another development, whole the security agents that abducted onome Osifo-whisky on November 9, 1997 were not done with Tell yet. Some of these colleagues were affecting an Thoasion at the Acmr road officer of the magazine. Their mission? To present the circulation of the previous weeks edition with the title WHY ABACHA WON’T HANDOVER. The premises was cordoned off and the staff who were around beat a hasty retreat. Thinking that a parked delivering van contained the magazine in question the operatives brought in a two van and forcefully removed it to their operational base.
The war was not against TELL alone. A day the abduction of Osifo-whiskey, a bizzarix drama. Took place at the premises of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) Lagos, Tenoins Alumona, Editor of THE NEWS MAGAZINE and who also anchors the stations fire television talks-how master sports was forced into a car and driven away to an unknown destination by people who claimed to be security agent. The size of TELL was also repeated at the premises of THE NEWS which prevented the circulation of the magazine the following Monday
A week before the abduction of its managing ediro the management of TELL had issued a press statement titled OUR LIVES ARE IN DANGER the statement limited a list containing the means of TELL staff and direct threat on the lives of TELL staff by a shadowing group. Apparently TELL was not crying wolf if the event of November 9 1998 were anything to go by.
Nosa Igiebor, editor in chief of TELL magazine was not the target of the squared around September 8, 1997 following the magazine edition with the cover title: Abacha’s illness worsen.
To make sure that Igiebor was arrested at all cost, his Ikeya home was invaded at 1000am;. The job was not for the SSS alone. Fully armed, mobile policemen and soldiers from Lagos state special security outfit. Operation sweep lent a helping hand. However Nosa was out of the country, but his wife was bundled into a vehicle and driven away she was however realized some hour later.
Ruth Aleloye, libratrian of the FAME magazine was arrested following a September 16 1997 signal the editor of the magazine. Niyi Akinsiju. Aleloye was arrested when the agents could not get Akinisju and promised to release him after Akinsiju or the general editor has shown up at the force CID quarters Alagbon Ikoyi. Ateloye who waked with the aid of a pair of clutches following a childhood illness was thrown into cell, when the illness became worse, his released was apparently hastened became of his deteriorating health, but it was too late, days later he died.
Also on Sunday, October 25 1997 an Editor of AFRICA CONCORD was abducted, Soji Omotunde and his wife Dele fears and anxiously asks to know the where about of here husband Omotunde who also uses clutches to walk as a result of Road accident he had before his abduction, may be unable to withstand the rigors of long detention because his health was failing him.
The assault on Africa Concord came in spite the suspension of publication of the Pan Africa magazine due to what Lewis its editor-in-chief called pressures of all kinds.
TELL can also reveal that a set of security agent are under form instructions to prevent the circulation of any edition that carries stones which in the judgment of Aso Rock is Distasteful. 72 copies of edition 38 MY FEAR FOR NIGERIA Carrington and 245 copies of edition 39 WHY IBB WAS NOT KILLED were impounded in Abuja by security agents who claimed to be acting on instructions from the Aso Rock.
Eight staffs from the Yobe state television are still nursery injuries they sustained from their encounter with the men who now hold the levers of power. The eight staffers chose the prime network news shot to air their documentary which focus on Aliyus – former administrator provision of critical social amenities. When the current administrator, Wing commander J. Ben Kalio said the programme he was vivid with rage. The administrator ordered some of his guards to go to the television house shut the station and arrest all the staff on duty. Kalio was however said to have supervised the drilling and beating of the eight staffers himself.
Other journalists who have suffered various degrees of indignities in the current dispensation include James Akpandan of Punch Christ Ikuenze of Vangaurd, Ladi the wife of exited former editor the News magazine Dapo to Olorun Yomi.
This article was extracted from a Project Research Work Topic
“EFFECT OF MILITARY DICTATORSHIP ON THE NIGERIA MASS MEDIA”