1.1. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
In 2011, the Nigerian Government signed the FOI Bill into law, thereby making Nigeria the ninth country in Africa and among the over 90 countries in the world to have passed this bill. The Act, according to Media Rights Agenda (2011), is indeed very explicit in its mission, which is simply to: Make public records and information more freely available, provide for public access to public records and information, protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy, protect serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of official information without authorization and establish procedures for the achievement of those purposes and; for related matters. Described as a legal instrument that would not only radicalize reportorial engagement of journalists, FOI Act, it has been argued, will foster a greater opportunity for investigative journalism, promoting the democratic process. The FOI Act has indeed created high expectations from the public concerning journalism practice in the country - expectations of truthful and adequate information from the media on all spheres of the society; a broader window of opportunity to practice unfettered journalism and a powerful investigative tool that empowers the media to hold public officers accountable to the people. However, these expectations become a reality only when the media practitioners put this powerful investigative tool to use. As Enonche (2012) observes ‘Nigerians finally have vital tools to uncover facts, fight corruption and hold officials and institutions accountable’. Given the enabling power of the FOI instrument, the critical question now is: are the Nigerian journalists making use of this important tool? This supports the argument that ‘a law is useless or ineffective if not put to use/operation’. In the light of the foregoing, we argue that, for the FOI Act to meet the high expectations and achieve the objectives of ensuring a more open and transparent society as well as enthroning democracy and responsible governance in Nigeria, the media must move beyond the euphoria that accompanied the establishment of the FOI Law, to come to terms with the provisions of the Act and begin to harness some of the expectations therein through the appropriate utilization of the Act. The Executive Secretary, of the Nigerian Press Council (NPC), Mr. Bayo Atoyebi explained how the media can harvest the benefits of the FOI Act as he clarifies: ‘by first understanding the law and making bold to use it and grow our reportage from speculative to the factual’. The media should use FOI Act request to assess the level of compliance with relevant laws including the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Public Procurement Act (PPA, 2007), the Electoral Act (especially aspects of it dealing with political finance monitoring) among others. FOI Act can also be deployed by the media as a tool to carry out its oversight functions as envisaged by section 22 of the 2012 Constitution. In this way, FOI becomes an indispensible tool in the reporting of accountability and anticorruption issues. The burning question is, do Nigerian journalists see and use the FOI Act as an investigative instrument to grow reportage from speculative to factual?
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Beginning from mid 2012, training workshops were organized in different Geopolitical Zones in the country. The main objective was to familiarize the journalists with the essential elements of the FOI Act and how they can use the Act to conduct investigative reporting in the country. Having undergone these series of workshops and trainings in the use of the Act, it becomes pertinent then that we interrogate Nigerian journalists’ knowledge, perception and use of the (FOI) law as an investigative tool in their day-to-day practices. This raises the concern of this paper as to whether the Nigerian journalists have adequately began to use the Act to protect the people's right to know, or to contest encroachment by government. Do the media understand their right under the FOI Act or even have a passing idea of how a request might be framed? Several other questions begging for attention could be summed up as follows: Since the enactment of the law has there been a noticeable improvement in the way the job of journalism is being done in the country? Are there cases of more in-depth, investigative journalism being put in place? Are the Nigerian media ensuring that the Nigerian publics maximize the benefits of the act by taking the lead in approaching governmental agencies and organizations for information they need to do their work? These questions are germane to this study given the fact that the trend that seems to pervade the practice currently is still the popular parlance of ‘business as usual’ without any seeming significant change. Given the above perceptions and observations, this study interrogates whether and how the Nigerian journalist - at this dawn of 'unrestricted access so to 'seek and say’ virtually any information - are rising up to the challenge of this new dawn in the Nigerian journalism practice.
1.3 AIMS OF THE STUDY
The major purpose of this study is to examine journalist perception of the impact of freedom of information act on the broadcast media. Other general objectives of the study are:
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
H01: There is no significant effect of journalists’ perception of the impact (positive or negative) of the Act on broadcast media.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is significant in more ways than one, therefore the study will attempt to reveal the point of convergence between the Freedom of Information Act and effective media practice. Aside its immense potency to contribute to the body of knowledge, the study also provides a variable insight into provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, thereby creating awareness about the law and its attendant prospects. More so, the study can serve as one existing literature or as an additional literature on freedom of information in Nigeria libraries. It will also be instrumental to prospective researchers who may want to plunge into this similar area of study. Again, journalists, editors, specialized groups, society, government etc. stand to gain immensely from the study. For the journalists, it provides them an ample opportunity to press for national development and enthronement of transparency in government. The government, through this study could harness the latent potency of the law as educated in it towards providing quality service to its citizens. In the same vein, the study is significant to the extent that it provides a platform for government press collaboration which if harnessed, can facilitate national development.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study is based on journalist perception of the impact of freedom of information act on the broadcast media.
1.8 LIMITATION OF STUDY
Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Freedom: It can be defined as a state of which somebody is able to act and live as he or she chooses, without being subject to any undue restrains or restrictions. It is the ability to exercise free will and make choices independently of any external determining forces.
Act: A law made by the National Assembly and has been given presidential assent.
Freedom of Information Act: The Act makes provision for public records and information to be more freely available, provide for access to public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy. The Act also protects public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of official information and establishes procedures for the achievement of those purposes, among others.
Journalist: A person who practices the occupation or profession of journalism.
Journalism: The work of collecting and writing news stories for newspapers, magazine, radio, television and the internet.
Broadcast Media: It refers to transmission of electromagnetic audio signals (radio) or audio-visual signals (Television) that are accessible to a wide population via standard readily available receivers (Ogunmilade, 1998).
OTHER SIMILAR MASS COMMUNICATION PROJECTS AND MATERIALS