Press Freedom and Fundamental Human Right in Nigeria


Fundamental human rights and press freedom are two sides of a coin. What this means is that one cannot talk of fundamental human rights without having press freedom at the back of his mind.

However, in this world everybody was created equal. As a result everybody has the same right to enjoy. These human rights are enshrined in article1, 244 and 22 of United Nation Organization (UNO) declaration consequently; human rights are also enshrined in every country’s constitution including Nigeria.

Alas, human rights violation has been observed from Liberia and Rwanda to Nigeria, all in Africa, since the Europeans left in the sixties, we have been suffering from this problem. It will be oppression in Nigeria where we have had a junta government and the winner takes all syndrome. The study is also the same abuse of fundamental human rights. New swatch (1997) states that from the harassment of the so called slits in Northern Nigeria to the ogoius in Rivers state more and more Nigerians finding out that even the very small freedom on the table after the military decree have been excised up substantial portions are not even guaranteed.

As the masses cannot withstand such oppressions in their own land and by their people, some embrace violence as the lease resort to fight human rights abuses in Nigeria. Thomas Jefferson, Americans third president made it clear when he stated; Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God. Jefferson uttered these immortal words at the peak of America struggle against British colonialism. Implicit in those words is the legitimacy of resistance to all forms of tyranny.

Fundamental human right has raised much dust with government trying to stop or abuse those rights which belong to the people as rational being. Examples of some bills of right passed centuries ago which later metamorphosed to fundamental human rights are the Magra Carta” (1215) regarded as landmark in the area of human rights developments, which in 1689 became the English Bills of rights and Virginia declaration of rights (1776) Another example is the united states Bill of rights which came into being in 1791.

Asbie (1996) said that “fundamental human right does not need to be dressed in an incomprehensible and in elegant terms to advertise its “Worth this shows that fundamental human rights are self evidence. It speaks for itself whether it is a matter of choice and right of the people and anything far from it, does not represent people rights.

Whiskey (1998), on the other hands, says, that it is a shame that Nigeria, Africa largest country, could still be dehumanizing her own citizens” with the absence of fundamental human rights in Nigeria, Nigeria as a nation.

Soyinka (1998) Commenting on the human right situation in Nigeria observed that “Nigeria had finally arrived at the peak of fascism, a doctrine that the Germans in the days of Adoph Hitter terms sippen half or puit by association” The fundamental human rights as entrenched in the Nigerian constitution is just there as a rubber stamp. Even the judiciary which is regarded as the last hope of the common man cannot do much for the rule of law to prevail so that the dignity of man will be restored.



The press is the voice of the voiceless in society. Not everybody is free to air his/her opinion or to express him/herself, this freedom of speech. This is an aspect of fundamental human rights, but in some countries like Nigeria, this rights is always denied the people because the powers that be do not want to be criticized, tell (1993) observed that a government that is allergic to criticism automatically forfeits its rights to rule. It should be clear that the right of the people to openly critics their government and hold contrary opinions is one of the pillars of true democracy and this should not be deprived of the people. Any attempt to repress free speech can only lead to subferanceans movement and whispering that can eventually lead to a volcanic eruption of unimaginable proportion.

Freedom of speech is not to be compared with any thing. Freedom of speech springs up every other freedom that one needs. That was why one of the Acient Greek philosophers, scripture defense of freedom of speech said.

“If you offered to let me this time on condition that Ian not any longer to speak mind in this research for wisdom, and that if lam caught doing this again. Shall die I should say to you, men of Athens I should obey the God rather say to you, while I have life and strength. I shall never cease to fulfill philosophy exhort and persuade anyone of you whom I happen to meet for this, be assured the God commands. And …Athenics, should go on to understand that I shall never act differently even if I have to die for it many time”


Free speech is so invaluable to society and any attempt to deprive one this right I tantamount to one being in solitary confinement in a society that also belongs to him. Justice Weridels Holmes Jr. of the US Supreme Court stated his beliefs in free speech in a number of court decision. Describing the test of free speech he says:

“If there is any principle of the constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principles of free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate”.


This is typical of what free speech is, but in Nigeria, that right is always given to the people, who will sing praises of the government, but the same right is also denied the people, simply because they are critic of the government in power, since the government does not wait people to criticize it, the critic are made enemies of government and that right is not given to them to air their view.

The issue of free speech cannot be discussed in isolation. It is normally backed up by freedom of the press which is a part of the fundamental human rights. Adeyemo, (1998) states that to choose the lips of truth is to cause disaster and if it is falsehood that is silence by force of law, then it is made to lie in ambush and to pass off as truth”. The question now is how free is the press in Nigeria so that it can fight for human rights abuses in Nigeria.

Basu (1986) stresses that “freedom of the press today means absence of interference by the state with the press, except in so far as it is authorized by the constitution and by laws which are constitutionally valid” Basu further argues the freedom means handle of control interference or restrictions.

Furthermore Nwankwo (1986) notes that press freedom is the right to publish, print, broadcast or disseminate information in any form with responsibility without outside interference or control it is though press freedom and criticism that the government remains responsive to the will of the people and peacefully corrected and eliminated through the process of popular government.

Abubakar (1999), views press freedom as the cardinal pillar of democracy, this is the fine that press freedom is needed, so that the fundamental human rights will reach the poor and rich in Nigeria.

TELL asserted further that, the process is necessary initiate in democracy, it is supposed to hold the minor for the ruler to look at, since it should be bold and ready to perform such a watch dog role.

But the press will do this only when the law is on its side. So while the siege on the press remain for now the press is encouraging itself with the fact that no undemocratic regime has ever out lived the media. News Service (1993) observes that “any alternative to freedom of the press in democracy is even worse than it’s abuse” that not withstanding, some people observed that the relationship between government and the press is that of friendly enemies. TELL (1998) says that it takes a lot of guts and true love for the fatherland, for any person or group pf persons to continue to function (and efficiently too) under the present siage, not all its fortunes deprivations and potential annihilation.

Human rights abuse in Nigeria has reached the climax that the masses should react now or never, cases of cold blooded murder in the country should always remain indelible in the minds of people. Think of the martyrs of Ogoni Land. By attacking the basis of injustice in Nigeria (the oil well), Ken Sarowiwa paid with his life and the eight of his co-leaders of the Ogonia nationalist movement who were hanged after a shame trial.

Newswatch (1991) observes that this ugly incident sent chill into the spine of human right activities. Some Nigerians who couldn’t withstand human rights violation after much effort to have it ameliorated took refuge in other countries for and near.

Malohu (1998) reported Alani Alainde general to be into exile with Wole Soyinka, Jon Tinubu, Anthony Enahoro and many other prominent Nigerians, Human rights violation has reached alarming stage in Nigeria, that one must not boast of what he/she will do tomorrow because he does not know what the day might bring seized and locked behind bars without giving fair hearing. TELL (1998) asserts that there were cases where mothers and children were taken away in the middle of the might, violation in Nigeria. Can we talk of the cold blooded murder of Pa Alfred Pewane, pillar of the opposirate Abiola, wife of the presumed winner of June 12 election 1993. They were assassinated by person suspected to be agents of the ruling junta. Much effort were made by various human rights organization both in Nigeria and outside to put an end to human right violation in Nigeria to no avail. Even human rights activities tried their best to put on an end to human rights abuses, but they achieved a little, since the government has no regard for human rights.

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