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This study examines the role of the media in promoting human rights. Central to the study is an effort to find out why the media decide to include human rights coverage as part of their programmes as well as the portrayal of human rights elements in such programme. This topic of research, “An Appraisal of Human right to the freedom of the press(A case study) is a top flight, thought provoking and interestingly challenging especially in our contemporary Nigeria which has embraced democracy and has been nurturing it for five years after almost thirty years if military dictatorship or domination of political power since independence in 1960. The aim of this research is to know whether the press has freedom in this present dispensation. However, freedom of the press is possible only when the rights of the press are protected. This can never be achieved in an autocratic set-up, except in a democratic environment as our appraisal of press freedom is such dispensation has shown.


Title page        -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           i

Dedication      -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           ii

Declaration      -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           iii

Certification    -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           iv

Acknowledgement      -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           v

Abstract          -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           vi

Table of content          -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           vii


1.1       Introduction    -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           1

1 .2      Background f study    -           -           -           -           -           -           -           1

1.3       Statement of problem  -           -           -           -           -           -           -           5

1.4       Objective of study      -           -           -           -           -           -           -           6

1.5       Significance of study  -           -           -           -           -           -           -           6

1 .6      Limitations of study   -           -           -           -           -           -           -           6

1.7       Definition of term       -           -           -           -           -           -           -           8


2.1       Meaning and nature of Press freedom-           -           -           -           -           10

2.2       Constraints on press freedom -           -           -           -           -           -           19

2.3       The social responsibility of the press  -           -           -           -           -           23

2.4       The freedom of the press under the 1999 constitution           -           -           26

CHAPTER THREE: AN APPRAISAL OF THE CONCEPT OF HUMAN                                          RIGHT

3.1       History of human right           -           -           -           -           -           -           35

3.2       The meaning, nature, characteristic and classification of human right -        39

3.3       Human right violations           -           -           -           -           -           -           52

3.4       In military regimes      -           -           -           -           -           -           -           55


4.1       Influence of the media on public Agenda      -           -           -           -           68

4.2       The role of international organizations on the protection of human Right and freedom of the press            -           -           -           -           -           -           -           74

4.3       The role of the court in promoting the Fundamental human Right to freedom of informational expression            -           -           -           -           -           -           78


1.1                                                INTRODUCTION

1.2       Background of Study

For the press to play their basic roles it must first exercise full its freedom. In other words, for the freedom of the press to be fully appreciated, we must understand the implication of a citizen having a fundamental right to free access to fact in all matters that directly concern them and also the right to express and publish its opinion there on.

Siebert, Peterson and Schramm in describing the operation of the press in their book entitled four theories of the press said that “the press is not an instrument of government but rather a device for presenting evidence and argument on the basis of which the people can check on government and make up their minds as to its policy. It is imperative that the press be free from control and influence so that truth can emerge[1]’.

On this premise, the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 14, 1946 declared, “freedom of information is a fundamental human right and is the corner stone of all freedom to which the United Nations is consecrated”.

1.      According to the sub-committee of Common Wealth Press Union headed by Lord Shawcross, freedom of the press is “the freedom that is not a special privilege of Newspaper but derives from fundamental right of every person to have full and free access to the facts in all matters that affects him”. With regards to these fundamental rights, the press are expected to be free to gather news without obstruction or restriction to publish the news and to comment on it.

2.      The Nigerian Constitution of 1989 Section 38 Sub-section 1 concedes that right to freedom of expression and the press by stating that “every person is entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinion and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.

The administration and governance of Nigeria was predominantly military after independence in 1960 and a coup in 1 966. The military ruled the country with successive coups until 1979 when there was a brief democracy, which lasted for four years before another army take-over in 1983. ‘The military ruled until May 29th 1999 when it handed over the mantle of leadership to a democratically elected government led by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

The media as the fourth arm of government was not spared from the military obnoxious policies. Their control, which was determined by decrees led to outright, closure of media house, death of some media practitioners, intimidation and harassment etc

3.      The closure of Newspaper organizations like Newwatch in April 1987, the Guardian in May 1991, Tell Magazine in August 1993 etc.

The imprisonment of journalists over reports government felt was antagonistic saw the likes of Tunde .Thompson and Nduka Irabor jailed under the infamous decrees 4 in 1987. Others include Chris Okolie, Innocent Okparadike, Editor of the Observe in Benin etc. All these happening under the military regime did not make it conducive for the press to function optimally. The military may not be entirely written off as enemies of the media because they ushered in an era that led to competition among various media organizations. This is because the excessive dictatorial tendencies of the military caused the press to become more daring and committed to seeking its freedom.

            The high handedness of the military reduced some media houses into government megaphone for fear of being harassed or closed down. Such media who owe their existence, control and sustenance to the government of the day depended on it for subvention as a means of survival. Mostly affected were the electronic media and some print media owned and controlled by those in power. This led to the deregulation in 1989 of media houses by issuing operating licenses especially to those who want to own and operate the electronic media. This development led to the establishment of private radio and television houses in the country thus breaking government monopoly of the electronic media industry.

            Coming up on the heels of these deregulations were stations like the African Independence Television (AlT), MINAJ. I)BN etc. inspite of these welcome developments, the torture on the media houses that were closed down and opened some months before the exit of the military in the governance of the country cannot be quantified.

The military quit leadership of the country in May 1999 and handed over to a democratically elected government led by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, which has long been the agitation of the press and the entire country. Under this administration, the press may be said to have an air of freedom in the exercise of its constitutional role as the eye and ear of the society. Innovations in the operations of the media may have resulted due to advance in technology; enough have not been achieved if any in terms of ownership of the media in the last five years of the current administration. Although the administration has done its best in initiating policies that can lead to the protection of infant industries and manufacturers, especially the local manufacturers. It has not done much in the area of information technology or high way that is the order of the day in making the world a global village.

There are still feelings that the news content of the media are being doctored to fit or rather suit the aspiration of those in power. There is also a feeling that the sectional political nature of the society may have polarized the media in such a that each pursues an agenda favourable to its ethnic origin or its ethnic consideration.

The other school of thought has it that the media has lost its bite and is no longer that which fought for the enthronement of democracy in the country thus, allowing a lot of maipractices to have their way into the nation’s polity. While most people attribute this to their resolve in supporting the democratic dispensation, others felt that the media for fear of being intimidated, have succumbed to the feeling and aspirations of the government.

1.3       Statement of the Problem

            Journalists often fail to adopt a comprehensive approach in reporting human rights abuses. Even in the absence of such abuses, the media often fail to formulate their broadcast policy to incorporate human rights programmes. The prioritization of profit-making over societal wellbeing dominates media agenda. For instance, Lustgarten and Debix[2] (2005:364) assert that the medias preference for flashy audience--grabbing and ratings-soaring image or story makes them to be nonchalant in matters which are of interest to the public, owing to their inability to pursue events in detail. Many studies conducted on media and human rights mostly dwell on analyzing the frequency of human rights terms, especially in the print media such as newspapers and magazines[3]. None or few of them center on an in-depth analysis of television broadcast programmes to find out the possibility of such programmes having an implicit or in- depth treatment of human rights issues. Is the word “Press Freedom” in existence in the true reality of life and, if so, how does it function? Or are they determined by the kind of government in operation from society to society or country to country?

1.4       Objective of Study

(1)   To understand the problems militating against the press freedom in Nigeria

(2)   To understand how the press has operated in Nigeria since 1999.

(3)   The result achieved here will enable us to say in concrete terms whether the press should be left free or should not be left free in discharging their statutory functions.

(4)   Identify the general duties of the press and how it can promote human right (5) Identify the importance of the press

1.5       Significance of the Study

            This study is significant in view of the negative feelings the present administration has received from its citizens and the belief that has press have played into the hands of government. But it no longer carries her activities in line with the constitution that set them up. Also is the fact that the present administration tends to intimidate the press on their activities, thus lending credence to the allegation that the press have been bought over[4].

1.6       Limitations of Study

            Supreme Court decisions over the years have interpreted this unadorned sentence to bar government generally, including state or local governments, from taking official action to abridge freedom of the press. But that same Supreme Court has been equally clear that the First Amendment is not an absolute that in certain circumstances “freedom of the press” must yield to other constitutionally-protected values, such as national security and the right of a defendant to an unprejudiced fair trial[5].

The history of the First Amendment’s press clause has thus been one of shifting lines back and forth along the broad frontier of freedom. There are four basic stages at which freedom of the press has been or can be limited:

(1)   Access to information;

(2)   Prior restraint on publishing information (censorship, injunctions);

(3)   Liability for publishing (libel and invasion of privacy suits, fines and imprisonment); and

(4)   Requiring reporters to testify or otherwise disclose sources or materials gathered in the course of their employment. While this fourth category technically does not abridge freedom of the press-it does not bar access or prevent or punish publications-the ‘chilling effect” it has upon the ability of reporters to function and to gain their sources’ confidence certainly merits its inclusion.

Research questions

This will aim at assessing the performance of the press, the atmosphere in which they operate:

1.      Is there freedom of press in Nigeria

2.      Has human right played a role in the freedom of press in Nigeria.

1.7       Definition of Terms


The act of examining someone or something in order to judge their qualities, success or need

Human Right

Human rights arc rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.[6]

Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.


Freedom, independence, liberty refer to an absence of undue restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one’s rights and powers. Freedom emphasizes the opportunity given for the exercise of one’s rights, powers, desires, or the like: freedom of speech or conscience; freedom of movement. Independence implies not only lack of restrictions but also the ability to stand alone, unsustained by anything else: Independence of thought promotes invention and discovery. Liberty, though most often interchanged with freedom, is also used to imply undue exercise of freedom[7].

[1] BBC One” television is one of the channel of the BBC. The BBC is said to be the largest broadcasting organization in the world, whose mission is to “enrich people’s lives with programmes that inform, education and entertain”. It has a vision which center on their quest “to be the most creative organization in the world”. As a public service organization, it was established by” a Royal Charter” and funded by a license fee which is paid by UK households, (BBC, no date). Available at:

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