I am indeed honoured to be guest speaker at this very important event marking the World Press Freedom Day, (WPFD). The world over, World Press Freedom Day, (WPFD) is usually observed on May 3 every year to inform the international community that freedom of the press and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights essential to the flourishing of democracy and good governance. It is a day that offers robust opportunity for people to pay tribute to media professionals who took risks, lost their limbs and lives on the line of duty. The celebration this year, the 20th of its kind, is an auspicious time for sober reflection to assess the long, tortuous road we have traveled since the WPFD was declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations in Dec. 1993. This is why the WPFD celebration this year should evoke action programmes to address the plight of journalists in Nigeria and around the world.

Let me thank the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Rivers State Council for extending invitation to me. When I received the invitation to speak, I cast a profound reflection on the theme SAFE TO SPEAK, SECURING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN ALL MEDIA. The first question I wrestled with was WHO IS NOT SAFE TO SPEAK especially now that the Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria, FOIA, has been passed? Again, the FOIA has made copious provisions for freedom of expression in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Again, the mind boggling cliché is “IN ALL MEDIA”, was equally strange to me. To the best of my knowledge, there is only one media even though the taxonomy of old media and new media, which has gained currency, bristles with some challenges. With the popularization of Social Media, there appears to be morbid suspicion between the old and new media. This open and global network has set the ground for new journalistic practices, amplifying previously unheard voices and enabling new forms of democratic participation, such as blogs, facebook, twitter, youtube, goggle plus and social media platforms as key enablers for the global recognition of new voices and the development of new forms of democratic participation.

I reckon that the nomenclature notwithstanding, there is a convergence between the two, but how to ride the waves to arrive at a meeting point poses another conundrum. I had to confront this challenge head-on. May I with all humility, therefore, take the liberty to speak on the topic “FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN NIGERIA: NAVIGATING A MEETING POINT BETWEEN THE OLD AND THE NEW MEDIA” I shall now turn attention to the paper.

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary World Press Freedom Day following a recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO's General Conference in 1991, the significance is not lost on us. Twenty years down the line, dozens of countries around the world are still wrestling with violations of a free press. Such censorship measures are often combined with age-old tactics of harassment and intimidation, arbitrary arrests, torture and other cruel or inhuman treatment, enforced disappearances and even killings – not only to directly silence dissent, but also to conjure a climate of fear within society. In some countries, publications are censored while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered. The question is: Is the WPFD worth celebrating? Answers to this perturbing question will verily open another vista for a healthy debate.

The global Theme for 2013 is “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media”focuses on safety of journalists, the issue of impunity, and online safety. There is also a special focus on the implementation of UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists. This is a time to encourage and develop initiatives in favour of, and to assess the state of press freedom worldwide. It is time to show respect and renew commitment to press freedom. More importantly, WPFD is a day of support for media, which are targets for the restraint of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists were tortured, detained, or who lost their limbs or lives in carrying out their profession.

It was Euripides who said long ago that “This is slavery, not to speak one's thought.” John Milton in the same vein said” Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” The concept of free speech can be found in early human rights documents such as the England's Bill of Rights 1689[1], the French Revolution in 1789 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948.

Article II of the French Declaration states categorically that:

“The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of the freedom as shall be defined by law”[2]

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression: this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”[3]

The right of free speech and expression is universally recognized, as it is enshrined in several regional and international instruments such as Article 9 of the African charter on Human and People's Rights. The right guarantees that individuals have the right to seek information and ideas; receive and impart such information or ideas. Freedom of expression is particularly important for the media, which plays the role of torch-bearer of truth and social responsibility. Judith Lichtenberg believes that a free press is simply a form of property right succinctly encapsulated in the dictum “no money, no voice”[4].

Nigeria is a signatory to the UDHR, 1948, the Banjul charter of 1981, which is part of Nigeria's domestic law. At its summit in Maputo, Mozambique in July 2003, the leadership of the African Union adopted a set of principles elaborating Article 9 of the Charter which among others declared that the African charter entitles “everyone to access information held by Public bodies” and to “access information held by Private bodies which is necessary for the execution or Protection of any right.[5]

Invariably, freedom of opinion and of expression constitutes the cornerstone of any democracy and a solid basis for development in all its ramifications. Indeed, participatory democracy is inconceivable without free speech and freedom of expression. If democracy is about transparency, accountability and good governance then free speech is indispensable. Thus, the public not only has a right, but is obliged to scrutinize the actions of public office holders to engage in full and open debate about their priorities, as the most effective way of addressing governance deficit.

The centrality of freedom of expression was underscored by a one-time President of the Philippines Corazon Aquino when she said "Freedom of expression - in particular, freedom of the press - guarantees popular participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is the essence of our democracy.” In fact Ronald Reagan in furtherance of America's cold war ideology made bold to say” The march of freedom and democracy . . . will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap ofhistory as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people.” [6].

Freedom of Speech is the right to voice one's opinions without interference from the state government or censorship. This right extends to unpopular opinions and criticisms of the government policies and leaders. Freedom of speech is a recognized human right as defined by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, although this may not be allowed in countries such as China, Myanmar and North Korea and other Islamic theocracies or tyrannies where minimal political opposition is tolerated.

Freedom of speech prohibits government from unnecessarily interfering with one's personal opinion, or speech. It fosters a sense of shared responsibility as well as gives a person a certain level of responsibility, enhanced trust, frankness, and better sense of liability. It acts a tool in nurturing social evolution and enhances self-esteem, as it helps people develop poise to express their views without fear of being molested, condemned or victimized. Besides the sharing of ideas which free speech invokes, enhances productivity at workplace and fosters social relationships. Freedom of expression also encourages social evolution just the same way it protects individual liberty. This is not to say that government must put measures in place to stop groups that promote offensive views, hate speeches, incitement of violence, racism, fascism, sexism and terrorism.

The United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization in its 174 meeting in 2005 took a unanimous decision:

Reaffirming the international instruments that uphold freedom of expression and freedom of thought conscience and religion.

Emphasizing that the media can have an important role to play in promoting tolerance, respect for and freedom of religion and belief.

Upholding the exercise of freedom of expression in a spirit of mutual respect and mutual understanding, urges mutual respect for cultural diversity, diversity beliefs and religious symbols etc.[7]

In exercising press freedom it is asserted that the media can promote disunity and discord. Truth and objectivity are the guiding principles of journalism, there are instances where the press is sectional, partisan and in pursuit of profits and self-interest. This does not detract from the obvious that the mass media is not only a potent force of communication but a watchdog of society.[8]. It is the exercise of free speech that enables representatives to freely voice their opinions on government policies, plans and programmes. Without free speech, no political action is possible, and no resistance to injustice and tyranny is conceivable.

A principal ingredient of media practices is the adherence to the basic ethical principles underpinning the profession. A practitioner is expected to be truthful, factual, objective, accurate, fair, maintain integrity and service to curry the friendship of the public. In every media endeavour, the public interest is at stake hence practitioners should go the extra mile to investigate, obtain facts, cross-check and authenticate before publishing them.

Some of the guiding Principles of Journalism include the following:

§ Public interest: A journalist is expected to serve the public by informing the people and enabling them to make judgments on the issues of the time.

§ Truth and accuracy: Journalists must at all times strive to ensure that information disseminated is honestly, accurately and fairly conveyed.

§ Verification: Practicing Journalists seek out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much as possible about sources, or asking various sides for comment.

§ Fairness: The goal of every journalist is to cover the news impartially and to treat readers, news sources, advertisers and all parts of our society fairly and openly.

§ Distinguishing fact and comment: Media practitioners must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact. This is why facts are sacred.

§ Accountability: Journalists shall do their utmost to rectify any published information which is found to be harmfully inaccurate or incurably bad.

§ Independence: Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know. This is why the pen profession is guided by the Social Responsibility function.

§ Transparency: This aims to attribute all information to its source. Where a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source's motives and any alternative, attributable source. Where a piece of information is confidential, they should be accepted and respected in all circumstances.

§ Restraint: The public has a right to know about its institutions and the people who are elected. People also have a right to privacy and those accused of crimes have a right to a fair trial. There are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy, the public good and the public's right to be informed. Each situation should be judged in the light of common sense, humanity and the public's rights to know.[9]

§ Originality: In the course of writing, journalists are not expected to engage in not plagiarism; they are expected to be original.[10]

Journalism's first obligation is to the truth; Its first loyalty is to citizens; Its essence is a discipline of verification and Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover hence journalists are independent monitors of power. Journalists provide a forum for public criticism and compromise, and strive to make the news comprehensive and proportional and its practitioners are allowed to exercise their personal conscience.[11]

The media is also accountable to the people hence it has a sacred duty of upholding the truth. The social responsibility role is articulated in Article 4 of the NUJ code of ethics, which states thus:

Media has the social responsibility of collecting and disseminating information to the public, which means to educate citizens and consistently strive to put ahead of others, matters of public and national interest (Daramola, 1999: 204).

Elucidating on the vital role of the press to nation building: Thomas Jefferson declared:

Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspaper or newspaper without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the later (Adrienne, et al, 1944: 12).

Controversies surround the new media and traditional media. The controversies are so intense that traditional media practitioners most often see social media as a threat, which at best should be tolerated. The general thinking is that like other ephemeral technologies, the internet and its paraphernalia will soon evaporate into a puff of illusive smoke. Some traditional media zealots even entertain fears about the dearth of ethical underpinning in social media practice hence they hold the belief that the efficacy of social media is tenuous and transient. Some traditional journalists have nurtured a sinking feeling that the print media may atrophy and this is predicated on the rapidity and dynamism of the Social Media Revolution.

It is pertinent to differentiate between the traditional and social media. Traditional media refers to tools used to broadcast information before the arrival of new media channels. These tools include: radio, television and print. The New Media on the other hand refers to ICT driven tools, which allow information sharing, interaction and networking possible. Such tools are Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, Youtube, Twitter, whatup, Badou and other online publishing infrastructure. The major disparity between the old and the new is speed and news timeliness.

Each social media platform has its own unique role to play. For example, Facebook allows networking and publication of large volumes of written materials. Youtube allows people to view and share videos while twitter enables people to break news and follow-up on discussions. New Media has led to the creation of a new concept – namely: citizen journalism, which refers to private individuals reporting news/information hence the power shift from huge media corporations to individuals who undertake information gathering, investigation and reporting.

There is contention in some quarters that citizen journalism sacrifices content and accuracy on the altar of speed. Information provided by citizen journalists may neither be researched nor verified like traditional journalists. According to the Pew Internet and American life project; only 34% of bloggers consider blogging as journalism, 56% admitted they did not spend time to verify facts. As the debate rages on, it leaves no one in doubt that the new Media is having a profound impact on traditional media. Newspaper sales have declined and this trend seems to have worsened the sinking feeling to further reinforce the fact that the print media is in danger of atrophy.

As a general rule, most proponents of human rights believe that humans are entitled to their lives and liberty. But some countries have limitations on freedom of expression in place and a few do not recognize it as a right at all. Despite this, freedom of expression is considered a human right by both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(Article 19).(i)The right to look for, receive and convey all forms of information is key to holding valid and fair elections. It is also the cornerstone of any government controlled by the citizens, because knowledge of government decisions and actions is vital for political transparency.


Social Media is a capsule term used to describe social interactions through the vehicle of ICT tools and internet-based technologies. Social media tools include networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Webcast, Google Plus, blogs, YouTube etc.

Social Media has unique characteristics as compared to traditional media. Apart from relegating the role of gate-keepers to the background, Social Media has the advantage of speed in terms of publishing available materials instantaneously. Moreover, whereas the traditional media targets a local audience, Social Media targets potentially global audience. Thus, Social Media creates room for huge audiences to access, obtain, retain and disseminate information.

Social Media is usually interactive in a way not known to traditional media. Social Media therefore creates room for participants to comment critique and often edit published materials. The implication is that quality and content control on the social media can be very cumbersome. This explains why some scholars like Pyrillis (2011)[12]believes that social media blurs private/public boundaries when the individual's personal information and opinions enter the public domain. The unique characteristics of social media pose acute ethical challenge. The disparity between Social Media and traditional media is further buttressed by the following:

Social Media

Traditional Media

1. It is interactive hence it involves two-way communication

2. Social Media is an open system hence it is transparent

3. Social Media is about you here. It involves the community

4. Content is User-generated hence it is authentic

5. Social Media is a free platform and control is unstructured.

6. Social Media adopts a bottom-up strategy. This is why informal languages are used with the active involvement of all users.

7. Social media is built around shared control and very clear humanizing transparency.

8. Social media has unlimited number of targeted channels.

9. Social media is not only cost effective but offers unlimited reach and micro-targeting while investment remains relatively constant.

This involves one-way communication

Traditional Media is a closed system with gatekeepers hence it is Opaque, restrictive.

Traditional Media is about me hence it is individualistic and often inclined to profit.

Content is professional and often polished hence it is less-authentic.

This is paid for and it is under strict control in communication.

Traditional media is top-down and whereas only formal language is used, participants are usually passive.

Traditional media outfits are built around brand,

Moreover, while the traditional has a limited audience and channels,

Traditional media is very expensive as the reach expands

Source: the Author: 2013
It does appear that social networking is increasingly replacing traditional media, as social media draws billions of peoples to it. This is due largely to the fact that the traditional media is passive consumer-driven while social media is active-consumer driven. Similarly, there is the contention that while the old is message-driven the new is conversation-driven.

Unlike the old media which is fleeting, social conversations as obtainable in social media are durable, continually discoverable through search engines such as Google, Yahoo etc. By the same token, whereas traditional media is a financial investment, social media is a social investment in people, conversation and user generated content. Although, both carry varying levels of credibility, social media appears to convey a stronger sense of credibility and authenticity.

As of December 2012: 15% of online adults say they use Pinterest; 13% of online adults say they use Instagram; 6% of online adults say they use Tumblr; 67% of online adults say they use Facebook , 16% of online adults say they use Twitter and 20% of online adults say they use LinkedIn as of August 2012.

The growing ubiquity of cell phones, especially the rise of smartphones, has made social networking just a finger tap away. Fully 40% of cell phone owners use a social networking site on their phone, and 28% do so on a typical day. Social networking sites are increasingly used to keep up with close social ties

The average user of a social networking site has more close ties and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American

Facebook users are more trusting than others
Facebook users have more close relationships
Internet users get more support from their social ties and Facebook users get the most support

Facebook users are much more politically engaged than most people

Facebook revives “dormant” relationships
MySpace users are more likely to be open to opposing points of view[13]

Mobile now accounts for 10% of internet usage worldwide (this has more than doubled over last 18months) 1.08 of the world's 4 billion mobile phones are smartphones

Apple and Android represent more than 75% of the smartphone market

7.96% of all web traffic in the U.S. is mobile traffic. That number skyrockets to 14.85% in Africa, and 17.84% in Asia — up 192.5% since 2010

29% of mobile users are open to scanning a mobile tag to get coupons

39% of instances where a consumer walks out of a store without buying were influenced by smartphones

91% of mobile internet access is for social activities, versus just 79% on desktops.

Over 1/3 of Facebook's users access Facebook Mobile; 50% of Twitter's users use Twitter Mobile

QR code scans increased 300% in 2011 compared to 2010

73% of smartphone owners access social networks through apps at least once per day

There was 103% growth in website traffic from smartphones from 2011-2012

There are currently 6 Billion mobile subscribers worldwide

This equals 87% of the world's population
China and India account for 30% of this growth
There are over 1.2 Billion people accessing the web from their mobiles

Over 300,000 apps have been developed in the past 3 year

Google earns 2.5 Billion in mobile ad revenue annually [14]

General social media and Internet statistics
40 % of accounts and 8% of messages on social media sites are spam

91% of online adults use social media regularly
YouTube users watch more than 3 billion hours of video per month

There are more devices connected to the Internet than there are people on Earth

83% of people believe platforms like Twitter and Facebook help them make new friends

25% of people believe social networks have boosted their confidence

24% of Americans and 28% of Brits have admitted to lying or exaggerating on a social network about what they have done and/or who they have met

40% of people spend more time socializing online than they do face-to-face (source: AllTwitter)

Every minute of the day: 100,000 tweets are sent; 684,478 pieces of content are shared on Facebook; 2 million search queries are made on google; 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube; 47,000 apps are downloaded from the App Store; 3,600 photos are shared on Instagram; 571 websites are created and $272,000 is spent by consumers online (source: AllTwitter)

Internet users spend 22.5% of their online time social networking

The web contains more than 8 billion pages
There are more than 2.27 billion people online (doubled since 2007)

70% of adult social networkers shop online
53% of active adult social networkers follow a brand

80% of active internet users visit social networks and blogs (Source: AllTwitter)

Almost 8 new people come onto the internet every second

79% of online shoppers spend 50% of their online shopping time researching products

the average budget spent on blogs and social media has almost tripled in 3 years

57% of marketers acquired customers via blogging
44% acquired customers via Twitter
61% of global internet users research products online

US Internet users spend three times longer on social media and blogs than email=

social media use has increased 356% in the US since 2006

there are 152 million blogs on the internet
companies that blog have 55% more website visitors
35% of consumer comments on Facebook Pages are compliments

93% of US adult Internet users are on Facebook
9/10 mobile searches lead to action – over half lead to purchase (source: Hubspot)

Facebook Statistics
Each day Facebook users spend 10.5 billion minutes (almost 20,000 years) online on the social network

Only 50% of Facebook users have more than 100 friends (source: AllTwitter)

There are 955 million active users on Facebook that spend an average of six hours and 35 minutes per month on the network (desktop only)

An average of 3.2 billion likes and comments are posted every day

Facebook posted a 67 percent year-over-year mobile growth rate (543 million monthly active users on mobile).

The 6:35 per month spent on Facebook is nearly double the time (3:20) spent on Google.

58% of users return to the site daily.
This brings us to the concept of Citizen Journalism.

What is Citizen Journalism?
The concept of citizen journalism also known as "public", "participatory", journalism is based upon public citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information.[15]

It is an alternative and activist form of news gathering and reporting that functions outside mainstream media institutions, often as repose to shortcomings in the professional journalistic field that uses similar journalistic practices but is driven by different objectives and ideals and relies on alternative sources of legitimacy than traditional or mainstream journalism. Citizen journalism is said to have taken place when the people formerly known as the audience employ the new media tools to articulate ideas and disseminate information in the cyber space, online and digital.[16]

The availability of new mediatechnology, such as social networking and media-sharing websites, in addition to the increasing prevalence of cellular telephones, has made citizen journalism more accessible to people worldwide. Due to the availability of technology, citizens often can report breaking news more quickly than traditional media reporters. Citizen journalism, as a form of alternative media, presents a “radical challenge to the professionalized and institutionalized practices of the mainstream media”. It is a form of journalism where the both citizen mediaand user generated content.

The idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others. The accessibility of online media has also enhanced the interest for journalism among youth and many websites blogs and other social media platforms covering a massive range of issues.

Lasica [17]classifies media for citizen journalism into the following types:

1. Audience participation (such as user comments attached to news stories, personal blogs, photographs or video footage captured from personal mobile cameras, or local news written by residents of a community)

2. Independent news and information Websites (Consumer Reports, the Drudge Report)

3. Full-fledged participatory news sites such as,,, etc

4. Collaborative and contributory media sites (Slashdot, Kuro5hin, Newsvine)

5. Other kinds of "thin media" (mailing lists, email newsletters)

6. Personal broadcasting sites (video broadcast sites such as KenRadio)[18]

The growth of infotech and the sophistication of society have posed a big challenge to traditional media of communication. In other for the media to survive this challenge, they resort to the coverage of news with economic benefits as against the interest of the citizens. On the other hand, the citizens having discovered this development, decided to look for a way out in satisfying their quest to know the happenings around them. The consequence of this development became a situation where the citizens would source for news themselves without passing through the normal journalistic process. The contention has been that many mass media organizations are busy repackaging and becoming more interested in meeting advertisers' needs rather than readers'/audiences' need[19].

Significantly too, another issue that led to the emergence of citizen journalism practice in Nigeria is the fact that the happenings around us far supersede the manifest content of traditional mass media. The implication is that most events occur without being reported either because there is no conventional journalist on site or none assigned to cover such beat. This is very commonplace in the rural areas.

The third point above led to the emergence of citizen journalism where people with the help of ICT equipment are now sorting information and finding their own version of the truth without necessarily depending on the gate keepers. Citizen or participatory Journalism grew out of an attempt by individuals to create, edit and write their own stories and participate in the dissemination of information.

Citizen Journalism is a bottom-up, emergent phenomenon in which there is little or no editorial oversight or formal journalistic workflow dictating the decisions of a staff. The difference between traditional journalism and citizen journalism is conversation. While traditional journalism practices have high degree of control by setting the agenda, choosing who the participants will be and moderating the conversation through editorial control, citizen journalism actively encourages free conversations among participants. Citizen journalism enabled the audience, rather than traditional journalists to encode, distribute and decide information through simultaneous distributed conversations that either blossom or quickly atrophy in the web's social network. [20]

Conversation is the mechanism that turns the tables on the traditional roles of journalism and creates a dynamic, egalitarian give-and-take. The fluidity of this approach puts more emphasis on the publishing of information rather than the filtering through editorial gate-keeping. Conversation takes place for all to see, and this is not the case with traditional journalism. Traditional news organizations are set up to filter information before they publish it. Citizen Journalism encourages symbiotic relationship between traditional journalists and citizen journalists. But most often, citizen journalism does not necessarily rely on any mediator to function. Citizen Journalism is built on participation as active members of the news community. Citizen journalism advocates that the people are important in the cycle of news production and dissemination; hence they should become part of the editorial process. [21]

The challenges facing Nigerian Journalist is how to redefined old-model of journalism which sees the audience as an empty receptacles waiting to be filled with information selected by omniscient editors and consumers whose only interaction with the media is to buy what is or what is not, except on few occasions where the audience has the privilege of writing an opinion article, which must be at the mercy of the editor to publish or dump in the refuse basket.[22]

Many media organizations in Nigeria are not bracing up for the challenges posed by internet and multi-media technology, which have opened up the media space to inject a level of participation for the audience in shaping the media content. To this end, Nigerian media organizations must embrace the audience as collaborators and stakeholders in business of news generation and distribution. Citizen journalism has thrown up challenges and opportunities for the practice of journalism, which many Nigerian journalists and their media organization have not braced. Many Nigerian media organizations have not make their presence felt on the World Wide Web (www) and where they exist; their pages are dry and drab, and not user-friendly. Citizen Journalism is about being close to, or involved in events as they happen and transmitting pictures to the mass media often ahead of professional new teams, hence the necessity of a functioning and reliable website.[23]. Citizen Journalism is both a threat and opportunities for journalism practice and business especially in Nigeria.

It is universally acknowledged that the right to freedom of expression is the linchpin of democracy, but it is not absolute. Every nation has developed some system of limitations on freedom of expression.[24] The State may limit it if it constraints the state's ability of limit expression. The State may be under positive obligation to prevent private sector actors from interfering with the exercise of freedom of expression by other media outfits. Again, States may be required to put in place positive measures to ensure that its own actions contribute to the free flow of information and ideas. This may involve a licensing system of media outfits that will help ensure diversity and limit media concentration. It is understandable why States place a legal framework to provide access to information held by public bodies.[25]

Restrictions can be placed on freedom of expression if there are laws, which are accessible. Secret laws may be legitimate in some circumstances, but such cannot limit freedom of expression. Essentially too, threat to national security can constitute a ground for limiting freedom of expression. History is replete with examples of government efforts to suppress speech on the grounds that emergency measures are necessary for survival that in retrospect appear panicky, disingenuous or silly.[26]

Freedom of Speech has its uses in a free society, but is a luxury in countries of tyranny where any tin-pot dictator can buy easily buy thousands of dollars' worth of equipment to jam foreign shortwave radio signals or secretly spy on browsing activities from second world countries. Why then is free speech is a luxury in some countries? Article 10 provides that the exercise of this freedom “since it carries with it duties and responsibilities” may be limited as long as the limitation:

is prescribed by law;
is necessary and proportionate; and
pursues a legitimate aim, namely:
the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety;

the prevention of disorder or crime;
the protection of health or morals;
the protection of the reputation or rights of others;

preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence; or

Maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Interferences on free expression usually involve restrictions on publication; penalties for publication, requiring journalists to reveal their sources; imposing disciplinary measures or confiscating material.

In Nigeria, there exists a nugget of provisions in various laws that individually amount to censorship in their effect and collectively create a censorious environment for the Nigerian mass media. For example, Chapter 7 of the Criminal Code of 1990 outlaws what it describes as sedition and seditious or undesirable publications, these being the products of a 'seditious intention'. It defines a seditious intention in Section 502 as one to create, among other things, hatred, contempt, or disaffection against the government, the president, or the governor of a state, to create discontent in the populace, or to promote hostility between social classes.

Chapter 21A of the same code forbids 'obscene publications' (these being specifically print publication). Section 233(1) of the code defines an obscene publication as one that in its effect tends 'to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it'. Section 88(a) of the law also forbids any publication 'likely to provoke or bring into disaffection any section of the community' and bans songs 'the words of which are likely to provoke any section of the community'. Finally, Section 58 empowers the relevant minister to ban the importation of any publication considered seditious or undesirable. Other laws with similar censorious provisions are the Obscene Publications Act of 1990, the Printing Press Regulation Act of the same year, and Offensive Publications Decree of 1993.[27]

Freedom of expression has always been subject to limitations. For example, while the search for truth has permitted tolerance for offensive and unsettling ideas, perjury and false advertising are penalised. The autonomy argument similarly permits restrictions in the interests of the autonomy of others but in broadcasting there is an act that places enormous responsibilities on the broadcaster,

They can only broadcast standards that are consistent with: the observation of good taste and decency; the maintenance of law and order; the privacy of the individual; the principle of balance when controversial issues of public importance are discussed and any approved code of broadcasting practice applying to programmes. In addition, broadcasters must protect the protection of children against portrayal of violence discrimination on account of sex, race, age, disability, or occupational status and restrictions on liquor promotion and pornography.

Another very potent limitation to the freedom of broadcasting is Privacy rights. Broadcasters should avoid digital manipulation and audio and video surveillance and draw a line between public and private life. Also, the State, broadcasters and the public have a degree of consensus that children are in a special position, and their vulnerability should be a prime concern. The protection of privacy against public disclosure of private facts, where the facts disclosed are highly offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities Protection against a broadcaster using the airwaves to deal with a private dispute. Protection against broadcaster disclosure, without consent, of names, addresses and telephone numbers of identifiable people.


Unlawful attacks on journalists and media organizations are very common in Nigeria despite the advent of civilian rule in 1999. Such incidents include physical assaults on journalists, seizure or destruction of journalistic equipment, raids on or sealing up of media offices, and confiscation of publications. [28]

The following cases are a selection from hundreds reported in the media and collated in Media Rights Monitor, organ of Media Rights Agenda:

§ 14 October 2003: A team of police officers beat up Suleiman Osasuji, a sports journalist with All Sports newspapers, using their hands, whips, and gun butts. The incident occurred at the Abuja Stadium, venue of the All Africa Games where he was on assignment as media officer with the organizers of the games

§ 17 May 2004: Soldiers from the 81st Division Garrison, Dodan Barracks in Ikoyi, Lagos, assaulted, arrested, and detained Savannah Peters, a reporter with Island News, and seized her camera. Miss Peters was on assignment to investigate a report of a luxury bus filled with valuables

§ 22 June 2005: Police in Lokoja, the Kogi state capital, arrested Segun Omolehin, state chair of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), at a meeting initiated by the police to improve police media relations in the state. The police had launched a campaign of harassment against the media following media stories on 20 June of an encounter between Kogi State Commissioner of Police Thomas Bamidele and armed robbers.

§ 14 May 2006: State security agents raided the office of DAAR Communications Limited in Abuja and confiscated the master tape of a documentary on failed efforts by past Nigerian leaders to perpetuate themselves in office.

§ 16 August 2007: Yomi Onashile, Ekiti state commissioner of police in south-west Nigeria, threatened journalists with arrest, detention, and prosecution for what he described as 'sensational reporting', accusing some print media journalists of bias in their crime reporting since his assumption of office.

§ 10 January 2008: Security agents in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital in south-west Nigeria, arrested and detained Fidelis Mbah of the BBC and Tade Oludayo of Silverbird Television and Rhythm FM radio for photographing a statue of the 'Unknown Soldier”.[29]

§ 8 May 2004: Officers of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), a paramilitary organisation of the Lagos state government confiscated from vendors and destroyed newspapers and magazines, accusing the vendors of street hawking. Some vendors were beaten up.

§ 10 February 2005: State security agents raided vendors on Old Market Road, Onitsha in Anambra state and confiscated large numbers of copies of a number of publications including The News, The Source, and The Week (all news magazines), and Hallmark newspaper. The State Security Service (SSS) explained that the publications had stories on the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), an organisation banned by the government. A vendor was arrested and detained at an unknown place.

§ 28 January 2008: A magistrate's court in Uyo, in the Akwa Ibom state, remanded Samuel Asowata, editorial board chairman of Fresh Facts newspaper, to prison custody after his arrest by police on 21 January for alleged sedition. Also arrested was Bright Essien Ewoh, a newspaper distributor. He was arraigned before a similar court the next day. Mr Asowata's arrest was in connection with a 21 January story in the newspaper captioned “Akpabio in N5.5bn Housing Scam?' Mr Ewoh was arrested for alleged sedition and conspiracy in connection with the distribution and sale of the Fresh Facts edition containing the story.

§ The media watchdog Reporters Without Bordershad just listed Nigeria Police Force as the leading abuser of journalists' rights. On Saturday, April 24, 2010, Edo-Ugbagwu, a judicial correspondent of The Nation newspapers was murdered in Lagos. Also, Godwin Agbroko and Abayomi Ogundeji of Thisday newspapers, Omololu Falabi and Bayo Ohu of The Guardian were all brutally killed in Lagos by unknown gun men recently.[30]

§ The assault on the press is a fundamental breach on democratic norms. Proponents of free press believe it is uncalled for and serves to remind Nigerians of the dark days of impunity during the Military era.[31]

§ Nigeria is operating now as a democracy so the freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions, receive and impart ideas without interference should be a fundamental right guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, (ACHPR).

§ When Channels Television as closed in 2008, the CEO John Momoh apologized to the government but the initial suspension of its license over a story on the purported plan of President Umaru Yar'Adua's resignation is a sign of an unspoken threshold beyond which criticism is not tolerated in Nigeria.

There is a reason why press freedom is included in the Nigerian constitution. The idea behind freedom of the press is that an informed public has a fighting chance against any government who will like to possess complete power over them. According to established human rights provisions it is quite clear these acts of intimidation and harassment are unconstitutional, an abuse of due process, and a negation of the gains so far made in Nigeria's fledgling democracy. Democracy flourishes under a free press.

Reporters Without Borders recently released their 2010 report on December 30, and here is the summary: 57 Journalists killed (25% fewer than in 2009); 51 Journalists kidnapped; 535 Journalists arrested; 1374 Physically attacked or threatened; 504 Media Censored; 127 Journalists fled their country; 152 Bloggers and netizens arrested; 52 Physically attacked and 62 Countries affected by internet censorship

According to Reporters without Borders, there was an increase in the kidnapping of journalists unlike in previous years; and “journalists were particularly exposed to this kind of risk in Afghanistan and Nigeria in 2010″

Minere Amakiri, a Port-Harcourt Correspondent with Nigerian Observer, had his head shaved with 'an old rusty blade', stripped naked and given twenty-four strokes of cane on his bare back. Tai Solarin was arrested on October 11, 1974 for his published article, “The beginning of the end”. In the same 1974, Chris Okolie, Newsbreed Magazine, was detained over an article titled, “The War on Corruption: Who Will Bell the cat”. (1984-1999) Kunle Ajibade of The News was arrested and asked to disclose the source of the story, “No One Guilty: The Commission of Enquiry Presents an Empty File Regarding Suspects in Coup d'etat”. In this past Jos Crisis, Sunday Gyang Bwede and Nathan S. Dabak of The Light Bearer newspaper lost their lives on April 24, 2010. There is also Bayo Ohu of the Guardian, September 20, 2009, who was gunned down in his apartment at Egbeda, Lagos, Nigeria, according to reports.

Generally, however, thugs allied to politicians and political parties have been the greater source of attacks on the media in the past five years. The following is a selection of such attacks.

§ 30 January 2008: Thugs in Lagos beat up Bayo Onanuga, managing director of TheNews magazine, after he gave evidence in a libel suit brought against the magazine by Bode George, the south-west chairman of the ruling party, the People's Democratic Party.[32]

§ 23 May 2007: Suspected political thugs armed with axes, machetes, and guns disrupted transmission, and vandalized and looted broadcast equipment after invading the premises of the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital in southwest Nigeria. They also injured workers of the media establishment represented the forces of change

The repressive practices of state agencies such as the police, the army, and the state security organs derive from and feed into this strategy, creating a general atmosphere of media repression. There exists no legal provision for state monitoring of the production and distribution of print media products. The print media do not have to submit their contents for state vetting; they obtain newsprint on the general market, and the security agents have no legal powers to monitor the distribution of newspapers or magazines.

The most significant legal source of the right to freedom of expression is set out in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that:

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art or through any other media of his choice.

The freedom to seek information implies that a person has a right of access to information, subject only to prescribed limitations, and the freedom to receive information basically prohibits a Government from restricting that freedom. The freedom to impart or convey opinions to others implies that the right to express includes dissemination, such as by newspapers or the mass media. The words 'other media' include radio, television, the Internet, mobile telephony, theatres and movies, and envisage future media developments.

Professor Nwabueze writes:
“The press is not an institution comprising special members. It is simply a vehicle, an organ for the dissemination of ideas or opinions to the public through the medium of printed words … the protection needed is not for the workers as such but for access to the medium by any person for the dissemination of information or ideas” Blackstone wrote “…Every man has undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press…” [33]

Media practice is one in which the old and the new are yoked into one bundle of life. While there are no gate keepers in the new and therefore difficult to control, both adhere to the same guiding principles and ethical standards. Whereas one is faster and defies boundaries, they all have the same sense of mission. In Nigeria, signing into law of the Freedom of Information Act confers on Journalists (old and new) the same umbrage to operate whatever controversy between the old and new is insignificant because they are complementary.[34]

It has become imperative for traditional media practitioners to embrace social media because the two are bottled-up in the same wineskin. Take notice, that ICT and informatics have come to stay; and since society is dynamic, we envisage monumental improvements in the cyberspace. Indeed, the time has come for the traditional media to adopt vital components of social media and this is necessary if the old media must remain relevant in the scheme of things. The struggle for supremacy between the old and the new is unnecessary. What is more constant is the fundamental idea that freedom of expression is designed to protect and enhance democratic ideals. [35]

As struggle to find a meeting point, one fact readily comes to mind, those in the print and electronic media profusely use e-mail to send articles, advertorials and other printed matters. Some newspaper publishers and columnists even cull articles, opinions and features write-ups from the Facebook and other online publishing outfits. The general rule therefore is to combine both for relevance and profitability. Any effort at limiting the free flow of information is futile and counter- productive.

Social media can be vital news-gathering and news-delivery tools. It is assumed that most actors and bloggers are journalists who should uphold the same professional and ethical standards of fairness, accuracy, truthfulness, transparency and independence when using social media. Practitioners must always remember that social media postings linger on as online archives. Correct and clarify mistakes, whether they are factual mistakes or mistakes of omission.

Social media is transforming, fundamentally and irrevocably, the nature of journalism and its ethics. This implies that publishing is now in the hands of citizens, while the internet encourages new forms of journalism that are interactive and immediate. Our media ecology is a chaotic landscape evolving at a furious pace. Professional journalists share the journalistic sphere with tweeters, bloggers, citizen journalists, and social media users.

What is required now is to build the capacity of Journalists and other media persons to acquire skills and core competences to cope with the avalanche of information churned out in the Social Media. Traditional media should be integrated into the social media, and this can be done through training in journalism to be effective on the job. Social Media practitioners should learn media law and ethics, news gathering and reporting. While traditional media practitioners should infuse ICT into their practice by establishing online publishing outfits. Social media should be integrated into journalism practice, and Journalists can use blogs, youtube, facebook,, goggle plus, twitter and Myspace, to allow many contributors to express themselves because in journalism no one tool is a silver bullet.[36]

One of the biggest game-changers in press freedom continues to be social media, which is challenging State censorship around the world. Facebook, Google plus, Twitter and Youtube and other tools have transformed a huge number of people into citizen journalists, who report in extraordinarily dangerous situations using their smartphones. Even in repressive regimes like Myanmar, Sri-Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, China, and Syria, these reports are perhaps the way news of protests and violent crackdowns reach the wider world.[37]

Now, we are safe to speak and secure our freedom of expression in all media. We must now integrate the social media into the traditional media in tandem with the dynamics of Informatics. If we fail in this integration and collaboration effort the theme of this year's WPFD celebrations can be an empty ritual and this should not be the burden of this generation of media practitioners in a fast globalizing world. . In the words of John Burrows, the right to freedom of expression is very 'terribly difficult balance':

If you don't regulate enough, unquestionably people can be hurt. If you're too free, you can damage society, you can damage individuals. At the other end, if you're too regulated and too restricted, the public aren't given the information they need. It is the most difficult area in the whole of the law to get right. There are just so many cross currents, so many important interests in it, that to strike the correct balance that will please everybody is virtually impossible......John Burrows

The time has come for journalists and social media practitioners to interrogate and reflect on how to combine the old and the new for relevance, consistency, content, competition and commercialism.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have been mercifully attentive and I thank you.

May 3rd, 2013

[1]In 1689, Freedom of Speech was granted in the English Parliament.

[2] During the French Revolution, Freedom of Speech was adopted as an inalienable right. (http://www.hrcr/docs/frenchdec.html.

[3] United Nations (1948) Universal Declaration of Human Rights

[4] Sanders Karen (2003) Ethics and Journalism.

[5] The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Right 1982, Article 9.

[6]President Ronald Reagan on the denunciation of the Soviet Union

[7]Article 18 of the Covenant
[8] Daramola I. (1999) Law & Ethics of Media Practice. Lagos: Owonike Rainbow Press Ltd. Pp. 44-50

[9] The Nigerian Press and Practice of Journalism Council Bill A Bill for an Act to Provide for the repeal of the Nigerian Press Council Act, 1992,

[10] John McCain, with Mark Salter, Faith of My Fathers (New York: Random House, 1999), 221.

[11] Mitchell Stephens, History of News: From the Drum to the Satellite (New York: Viking Press, 1988), 34.

[12] Rita Pyrillis (2011): New Tools cast a Wider Social Network for Recruiters. Workforce Management online PP. 12 -13

[13]Joana Brenner (2012) Pew Internet: Social Networking

[14]Source Digital Buzz Blog

[15] Burkholder C. (2010). Citizen journalism, cell journalism. Retrieved January 20, from

[16] Bowman, S. and Willis, C. "We Media: How Audiences are shaping the Future of News and Information." 2003, The Media Center at the American Press Institute.

[17]Lasica, J. D. "What is Participatory Journalism?" 2003-08-07, Online Journalism Review, August 7, 2003.

[18]Mark Glaser (September 27, 2006). "Your Guide to Citizen Journalism". Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved March 22, 2009.

[19]Freedom of the Press Index (July 1, 2012). ESSACHESS Journal for Communication Studies, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2012. Available at SSRN:

[20] Uyo, O. Adidi (2000): “Government Information Management and Media Relations” Being a Paper Presented at a Seminary on Government and Media Relations Under a Democratic Dispensation. October 11thpp.3 -6.

[21]Jay Rosen (14). "A Most Useful Definition of Citizen Journalism". PressThink. Retrieved 21 May 2012.

[22]Contentious(2010). What is citizen journalism? Retrieved January 20, from

[23] Radsch, Courtney C. The Revolutions will be Blogged: Cyberactivism and the 4th Estate in Egypt. Doctoral Dissertation, American University, 2013.

[24] Toby Mendel 'Restructuring Freedom of Expression: Standards & Principles” BackgroundPaper for Meetings Hosted by the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Opinion and Expression. Centre for Law & Democracy. P1

[25] See Freedom of Information Act , 2011
[26] Smolla, Rodney (1992) Free Speech in an Open Society. New York: Knopf, p.319

[27]Okigbo, Charles C. / Eribo, Festus (2003): Development and Communication in Africa. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

[28] Servant, Jean-Christophe (2003): Which Way Nigeria? Music under Threat: A Question of Money, Morality, Self-Censorship, and the Sharia. Copenhagen: Freemuse

[29]Hundreds of such incidents are on record on the website of MRA ( and occur very often.

[30] Nosaze, Osaze Lanre (2005): Clear and Present Danger – The State of Human Rights and Governance Year 2004. Lagos: Civil Liberties Organisation.

[31]Soyinka, Wole (1996): The Open Sore of A Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis. New York: Oxford University Press.

[32]Berger, Guy (2007): Media Legislation in Africa – A Comparative Legal Survey. Grahamstown: UNESCO.

[33]Babarinde, L. (2000): “Government-Media Relations in the Information Age” Being a Paper Presented at a National Seminar on Government and Media Relations Under a Democratic Dispensation. Ota, Ogun State. October 11-13, pp.6-8.

[34]Okigbo, Charles C. / Eribo, Festus (2003): Development and Communication in Africa. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

[35]Nigeria: The Limits of Freedom of Information Act BY By Elijah Ogbuokiri, 11 October 2011

[36] Nathan Goba (2012) Teaches multimedia journalism as an adjunct instructor for point Loma Nazarene University and SDSU Digital and Social Collaborative.

United Nations ( Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19

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Articles by Idumange John