EVALUATION OF AWARENESS AND UTILIZATION OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT, 2011, BY BROADCAST JOURNALISTS’ IN KOGI STATE

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ABSTRACT

This study investigated Awareness and Utilization of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 by broadcast journalists in Kogi State. The objectives of the study were to: ascertain the level of broadcast journalists awareness of the FOI Act in Kogi State, investigate if broadcast journalists utilize the FOI Act provisions in the course of their news gathering business, find out the problems associated with the implementation of the FOI Act and determine how to make the Act more functional. Survey research design was used for the study while the sample size was 217 broadcast journalistsselected purposively from five broadcast media stations from Kogi state namely: Radio Kogi, NTA, Lokoja, Grace FM, Confluence TV and Prime FM. Multi-stage sampling was adopted for the study with questionnaire as the instrument of data collection. The result of this study showed that 52.1% of the respondents reported that they are aware of the Act to a large extent. (51.2%) of the respondents reported that the extent to which they utilize the Freedom of Information Act in their journalistic exploit is low. Also, the result revealed that the factors that limit the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act are: non-domestication of the Act in Kogi state, unclear definition of operational jurisdiction of the Act, the inclusion of too many exception, non-commitment of government to implement the Act, poor cooperation from public officers who keep custody of public documents, inability to carry state assemblies along in the passage of the act and lack of perseverance on the part of journalists. Finally, the result of this study showed that for the Freedom of Information Act to be made functional, it should be repealed and re-enacted and thereafter, domesticated by the various states governments in Nigeria. The researcher recommends, among others, that the government should consider the possibility of repealing and re-enacting the Act so as to take care of oversights in the existing one.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Title page
Table of contents
List of tables
List of figures
Abstract

CHAPTER ONE
1.0 INTRODUCTION
1.1       Background to the Study
1.2       Statement of the Problem
1.3       Objectives of the Study
1.4       Research Question
1.5       Significance of the Study
1.6       Scope of Study
1.7       Operational Definition of Terms
References

CHAPTER TWO
2.0 LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1       Focus of Review
2.2       Conceptual Review
2.2.1 Broadcast Media Conceptualized
2.2.2. Press Freedom and Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria
2.2.3 The Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria
2.2.4 Challenges to the Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act
2.3       Review of Empirical Studies
2.4       Theoretical Framework
References

CHAPTER THREE
3.0 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.1. Research Design
3.2       Population of the study
3.3       Sample Size
3.4       Sampling Technique
3.5       Research Instruments
3.6       Method of Administration of Instruments
3.7       Validity and Reliability of the Instruments
3.8       Method of Data Analysis
References

CHAPTER FOUR
4.0       DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION
4.1       Data presentation
4.2       Discussion of findings

References

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background to the Study 
Free access to relevant information is central to effective journalism practice globally. Information is to journalism what raw products are to manufacturers. Journalists need information from the society to enable them refine it and return same to the society with the ultimate aim of making the society a better place. The right to information has been given a boost by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) article 19 which states “Everyone has the right to Freedom of opinion and expression: this rights includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria equally empowers the press in section 22 when it states ‘‘The press, radio television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people’’ Also, section 39 of the same constitution equally states ‘‘Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.’ However, what the constitution gave in section 39, it took in section 45 when it writes ‘‘Nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.’ This means, the government can bring up any law and claim it is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. Gever and Tyegyu (2015,p.33) corroboratively writes “One of the challenges confronting the practice of journalism globally is the issue of access to information. Journalism is founded on information gathering, processing and dissemination” It was in an attempt to promote access to information that the freedom of information bill (as it was known then) was initiated. The bill was initiated in 1993 by three different organisations, working independently of each other. They are Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), which agreed to work together on a campaign for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act (Freedom of Information Coalition 2015). Members of the setup by the different bodies met with the then Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa, to secure his support for the enactment of the draft into law. Although he was in principle supportive of the idea, it was clear that he lacked the political influence within the Abacha regime to push the draft through. The political situation in Nigeria deteriorated shortly afterwards as the Abacha regime became more repressive and brutal and the law was never passed. The objective of the campaign was to lay down as a legal principle, the right of access to documents and information in the custody of the government or its officials and agencies as a necessary corollary to the guarantee of freedom of expression. It was also aimed at creating mechanisms for the effective exercise of this right.

The consultations among the initial partner organisations were geared, among other things, towards determining the various interest groups likely to be affected by the legislation; those who should have a right or standing to request information under a freedom of information regime and under what circumstances information may be denied those seeking them; what departments or organs of government would be responsible for releasing information and documents to those seeking them; and determining the agencies and arms of government to which the legislation would extend. Media Rights Agenda was designated the technical partner in the project under the arrangement agreed upon for taking the project forward. After many years of struggles and consultations, the bill was first passed into law in 2007 but President Obasanjo on April 27, 2007 refused to assent to it which was presented to him on March 23, 2007 (Abati, 2007). He was quoted as saying the bill should have been called the “Right to Information Bill” and that he had told members of the National Assembly but they refused to change the title and, instead, chose to retain the “Freedom of Information Bill.” However, President GoodLuck Jonathan on Tuesday 24th May, 2011, signed the Freedom of Information Act into law. The ultimate aim of the law is to enhance access to information as expressed in section 1, which states:

Notwithstanding anything contained in any other Act, law or regulation, the right of any person to access or request information whether or not contained in any written form, which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution howsoever described, is established

Although the above provision appears to be comprehensive, the provisions of section 12,13,14,15 16 and 17 make it sceptical for one to believe the sincerity of the Act. It should be noted that a member of the House of Representatives from Lagos State Hon, Abike Dabiri Arewa is often credited as one of the foremost lawmakers who stood firm to ensure the passage of the FoI Act. Other countries with freedom of information laws are Indonesia which was enacted in 2010, United States of America.......

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