Hazards of Journalism Profession under Military Regime

Hazards of Journalism Profession under Military Regime

Hazards of Journalism  – Journalism profession in Nigeria encounters a catalogue of problems especially under the military regime. There has been no smooth romance between the journalists and the government in power, rather what was seen then was harassment, detention without trial, of the journalist involved.

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These hazards/dangers that face the profession were caused by the incessant enactment of repressive press laws by the government.

The masses depend on the journalists for information on what is happening in their immediate environment, therefore, the journalists is the link between the rulers and ruled. So any negative treatment on the journalists affects not only the people in the profession, but also the attitude and behaviour of the Nigerian populace in general.

Therefore, the hazardous nature of journalism profession under the military era should be looked into so as to discourage the populace not to admit anything like military rule again in the Nigerian society. It was said that the worst administration in a democratic dispensation is far much better than the best administration under military regime.

Nat withstanding the fact that certain legal/professional techniques were employed to check and curtail the excesses of journalists, the military, when in power, were known for chaining the journalists with draconian laws, obnoxious decrees, sack threats, elimination and constant proscription of media houses. Journalists may see and hear evil and such will be sealed to make sure that they don’t loose their lives or jobs.

News watch magazines which was the toast of Nigerians because of fearlessness, independent views and radical approaches to issues was put to stop when its editor-in-chief was exterminated through a letter bomb blast, followed up six months later by a proscription.

When the provision for freedom of expression is guaranteed, some stings are being attached to it, which made the journalist not to be free. In some government media houses, the noble profession is forced to dance to the tune of their ‘lords’. While trying to tell unto the ethics of their profession, they are meant to endanger their lives.

A time, it became a sort of worry on how the journalists are being intimidated and the clever manner, which the government officials take in denying their own statement in the face of naked truth. At first, the government in power tries to embrace the profession just to get it established and thereafter turns against it. Because the journalists are ready to face their unravel their injustices, they (the military) turns to scrutinize and cripple the press unnecessarily with accumulation of obnoxious laws.


Usually under military regime, more government owned media were meant to be than private owned. As at the time of Abacha, about six schools of journalism as well as many mass communication departments were in existence. Also, over sixty and fifty radio/television stations respectively and over 157 for newspaper and magazine were in existence as at the time under review.

With all these, there supposed to be existence of perfect journalism profession due to the fact that they are being trained properly with polished languages, balanced and fair reporting etc. However, it was still noticed that cases of arrest of journalists by security agents, loss of job under written and unwritten obnoxious laws, were still the hallmark of any military regime, even when the constitutions made provisions for such basic human rights and freedom by the government. The evidence was seen in the pronouncement by the Abacha regime of establishing special court to try indicted journalists sometimes in 1997. The journalist, seeing all the hazards, resorts to dance to the whims of the government or writes himself to jail.

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With these, questions arise on if the journalism profession still worth its meaning with all these dangers posed to it, if the journalists were really free and if there was neglect of ethics and principles of journalism on the part of journalists.



The aim of the research should be to find out:

  1.        i.            The dangers, which confront journalism profession within the period under review.
  2.      ii.            If it is unethical to criticize government policies/actions or public figures.
  3.   iii.            The implication of such extra-journalistic laws in the profession of journalism in Nigeria.



  1.        i.            To make the journalists, the potential journalists as well as the entire society, not to admit anything like military administration in Nigerian society.
  2.      ii.            The study will also broaden the views of mass communication students, especially those whose intentions are to get into the profession on their rights and responsibilities as journalists.



This study shall provide answers to the following questions about the dangers posed to journalism profession especially when the military men are in power.

  1.        i.            Does the military government follow the constitution whenever they are in power?
  2.      ii.            Do journalists in Nigeria enjoy free assess to information source?
  3.   iii.            Are Nigerians satisfied with the kind of treatment the journalists pass through in the course of their duty?
  4.   iv.            Do the controversial press laws violate freedom of the press in Nigeria?
  5.      v.            Do the Nigerian journalists abide by the imagination of such codes and practices?
  6.   vi.            Does freedom of expression and freedom of the press exist during the Abcha regime?



In evaluating the hazards of journalism profession in Nigeria under Abcha’s regime, the following hypothesis shall be tested.

H1:         The promulgation of repressive laws is an impediment to professional growth of the journalists.

Ho:         The promulgation of repressive laws is not an impediment to professional growth of the journalists.

H2:         Repressive press laws constitute the major obstacle to the objectivity of journalism profession.

H0          Repressive press laws do not constitute the major obstacle to the objectivity journalism profession.

H3:         Press laws affect the freedom of journalists.

H0:         Press laws do not affect the freedom of journalists.

H4:         The effects of press laws on the performance of journalists under Abacha regime depended on the ownership and type of press.

H0:         The effects of press laws on the performance of journalists under Abacha regime do not depend on the ownership and type of press.


For the purpose of this study, the following terms shall be defined both conceptually and operationally for clarity.

  1.        i.            Journalism profession
  2.      ii.            Journalist
  3.   iii.            Press
  4.   iv.            Press freedom
  5.      v.            Extra legal constraints



Conceptual: A specialized duty that aims at informing, educating, entertain and mobilizing the people through writing or publishing a newspaper, magazine or periodicals.

Operational: A profession, which is all about informing the people about the happenings around them and expectations in various part of their society as well as bringing the people’s problem to the knowledge to the government.



Conceptual: Person engaged in the work of writing, editing or publishing a newspaper, magazine or periodicals.

Operational: Person engaged in the business of reporting, writing and editing of newspaper and magazine contents only.



Conceptual: Printed periodicals including magazines, newspapers, books, leaflets etc.

Operational: Newspapers and magazines published excluding books, leaflets etc.



Conceptual: To act (journalists), write, without prior constraints, fearing nothing in a proposed action or issue. Freedom to pursue the truth and the publics right to know.

Operational: To act without any form of restriction by the government of the day through the use of legal and extra legal methods. It means in this context, the right of the press government that are not within the limits of law of the land.



Conceptual: Going out of way of established to impede the work of the person or persons targeted.

Operational: The use of harassments, lobbying, force and brown-envelopes to waken the performance of the press in Nigeria within the period under review.



The study hinged on the assumption that:

  1. Certain instruments of the government, which is known as press laws, are suppressing journalism.
  2. Ownership of the media under the military affects journalism profession in terms of repressive press laws.



The study is such that should have attracted a very wide scope, but because of time and financial constraints, the study is limited to the period between 1993-1998.

It has not been easy shuttling between offices for the gathering of facts, visiting bigger libraries going through text books, newspapers and magazines articles and related subjects and also studying project works of other scholars within the given time schedule.


It is pertinent to state that sourcing for literature for the purpose of this review was not an easy task. This is because of the death of academic books, presently holding sway in Nigeria. More so, the nature of the review is not such that the researcher would depend on a single source for all she wanted.

In this dispensation, the researcher widened the scope of his search for literature to include repeated visit to: IMT library, ESUT library, FRCN Enugu news information office (NIO), NUJ office, National library and other private libraries. The researcher of course equally resorted to borrowing books from private individuals, of which Mr. Uche Ndukwe and Mrs. Amarach Okochua, (both of FRCN Enugu National Station) were of great help.

In this order, books, newspapers, magazines, journals, unpublished thesis and lecture notes, including personal interviews with credible sources provided materials with credible sources provided materials for the literature.



Journalism profession, also known as press is the fourth estate of the realm. It aims at informing the people about the happenings around them and expectations in various part of their society as well as bringing people’s problem to the knowledge of the government. They have the function of informing, educating, entertaining and mobilizing the people. Thus, in order to function well, journalist must study to possess more than average intellectual ability of everthing in most cases, the best knowledge of what topic he is writing at a time. He must have adequate information than his audience. In the process of performing these functions, he becomes the ear and eye of the public audience in a developing environment such as ours, he is seen as the conscience of the society.


In the course of their duty, they step on toes, prying into private and public lives of people, groups, individuals and government at the risk of their costly lives. All information or report must be well detailed and justifiable with adequate proof. Remember our late sage; Chief Obafemi awolow once described a journalist as “a man who knows something about everything and almost everything about something (C.F. THE TIDE, WEDNESDAY 14, JUNE, 2000). With regards to the late Sage’s description, we all know who a journalist is. Yet in the event of creating joy for the audience, they are victimized, assaulted, beaten, battered, injured, maimed or even killed. The process of gathering is very hazardous and difficult, yet, journalism profession is a very honorable profession, although someone there may not be able to understand that the life of a journalist is full of stress, constant hassle, nervousness and brutality suffered in the event of performing their duties.


Journalism is the only profession without a defined condition of service or salary scale. They are not well paid so as to motivate their action towards being objective, which is the hallmark of every journalist. A liberalized environment naturally leads to liberalized condition of service for practitioners of the profession. While other professions such as medicine, law, engineering, etc have salary scales different from the normal civil service scale; journalists are left to the whims and caprices of their employers who decide their pay. (C.F. News watch, Sept. 19, 1994 P. 25).


The profession has the highest appeal but remains the least attractive. Regarded as the fourth estate of the ream, journalism over the years has been bastardized and abused by self-seeking, publicity, conscious and ambitious. Politicians and publishers who wish to advance their political and economic interest. Unfortunately, many unsuspecting journalists with the zeal to discharge their social responsibilities as information gathered and disseminators, fell prey to unholy motives. This could be seen under the 1993 presidential election decree in which the journalists were prohibited from publishing or commenting on certain aspects of the election, mostly the result. An example could also be seen when the government in power proscribed the vanguard press.


Under the Abacha regime also, it was stated that the Nigerian union of Journalists (NUT), the umbrella body of journalists throughout the country, has tried, without success, to get operators of the industry to review upwards salary of journalists working under them in view of the nature of the profession, but unfortunately, all their efforts fell on deaf ears. (C.F. THE TIDE, MONDAY O.O. 15,2001).


For profession operated under very excruciating conditions. In 1998, 55 cases of press attacks were reported, whiles in 1999, a total of 147 cases of press attacks were recorded. Ironically, more press assault occurred in 1998 but were neither reported nor recorded because the amount for fear of further reprisal. But the situation changes as reported cases of press attack assault increased in 1999 due to the fact that the atmosphere had become ‘ safe’ for voicing out such attacks.


Nevertheless, there are press laws, which are the common law, which applies as regulation on all aspects of communication art- informing, persuading, and entertaining, among others.

Press laws everywhere in the world has the same substance which touches such issues as the organization of the court, reports of meeting including those of parliamentary and judicial proceedings and obscene and indecent publications. All these in turn constitute major publication items of the journalism course, ‘law and ethics’ which every practicing journalists must know of or taken in the course of study.


Knowledge of press laws becomes very important to the journalist because the ‘freedom of expression’ from which the assumed freedom of the press derives and on which the performance of journalists hinges does not guarantee him immunity from the consequences of breaking the rules of law or infringing on the people’s fundamental human rights and freedom. Thus the dictum that the law is respecter of no person also applies to the journalist. It was with regard to this double-faced nature of the law as seen in journalism profession that made Cadlin (1969) warn journalists that ‘in no field of human activity is a little learning so dangerous as in law’, (P. 193).

How these general media laws has been influencing the practise of journalism in Nigeria cannot be evaluated adequately without reference to historically development of press laws in Nigeria. The British colonial administration set precedence on use of law to regulate press performance in Nigeria with the newspaper ordinance (1903) to regulate proliferation of mushroom press. This was followed by the seditious offences ordinance (1909) to regulate the practice of journalism and publishing of newspaper. The criminal code of 1916; the amended newspaper ordinance of 1917; and the press regulation ordinance of 1933 came as reinforcement to the press laws of 1903 and 1909 (c.f. Jika 1990 p. 174). Aniagolu (1994) noted that these press laws were designed to check the excessive criticism and image destruction which the nationalist press cast on it so as to regal and retain the good will of Nigerians.


The indigenous regimes that emerged since the independence took after the colonial regime so much that the Nigerian journalists and press then encounter avalanche of laws in the process of eliciting and disseminating information from and to the people. Every promulgation/enactment of the press law is justified with such reasons as discouraging the emotions of factionalism, ethnics, strikes and revolts, etc as may be promoted by press report, or to spur the press to maintain standard by giving Nigerians accurate and lawful news. Between 1960 and 1979; and 1984 till Abacha’s regime, over (20) twenty press laws most of them obnoxious have existed against the journalist. Among those laws are: the children and young persons (Harmful publications) Act of 1961; Defamatory Act 1961; Seditious Meeting Act 1961; Obscene Publication Act 1961; Official Secrets Act 1962, Circulation and Newspaper Decree No; 2 of 1966; the defamatory and offensive publication decree No. 44 of 1960; Newspaper prohibition publication from circulation of 1967 (prohibiting the circulation of the Biafran Sun in other parts of Nigeria); public officers decree no. 12, (1978) (protection against false accusation); Electoral Act of 1982; Nigeria media council decree of No. 58 of 1988; Decree 6,7 and 8, (1994), etc.


Shehu Garba, General Manager of Triumph Newspapers Kano once described these laws as a land which no one walk through safely. Similarly, Muda Ganiya and Femi Adeoti (1994) observed that “from the many laws enacted to check the Nigerian press, it would appear that each issue of all Nigerian newspapers everyday must contravene one law or the other….” P.S. Prince Tony Momoh, the one time Minister of information had on March 28, 1994 during a three-day workshop organized by the Nigerian Media council highlighted that some of these laws are due for review.

Validity of the views, opinions and observation of Shehu, Ganiyu, Adeoti and Momh exist (and shall continue to exist) in case of arrests, detentions, relief of duty, manhandling and imprisonment of journalist by government and its security agents in the country. One will ever ask, “what is the false accusation, secrets, provocation, libd etc” in the following cases:

  1.        i.            Jailing Tunder Thompson and Nduka Irabor both of the Guardian Newspaper for 12 months, for carrying out a story on reshufflement of diplomatic heads which was true.
  2.      ii.            Closing down punch and champion newspapers for publishing in full the contents of major Gideon Orkar’s April 22, 1990 coup announcement.
  3.   iii.            Again, what is the justification of establishing a press court while there exist already the Nigerian media council, Nigerian union of journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors, Nigerian Association of Women Journalists (NSWOJ), etc., all trying to instill discipline and these bodies as a team act together with the government.


—-This article is not complete———–This article is not complete————

This article was extracted from a Project Research Work Topic


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Hazards of Journalism Profession under Military Regime



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