a comparative rating of press freedom under babangida and abacha regimes by media workers in uyo municipality

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The media provide information, discussion and debate of Public Affairs nationally and internationally. Media project the aspirations, yearnings, hopes, likes and dislikes of the people. Without the media, dialogue at the national level will not be disseminated to the citizenry and the government will in turn rule by speculation and ignorance. The true feelings of the people will not exposed. Therefore the concept that the media are the watchdog of the society becomes fully acceptable.

Modem media development in Nigeria came into effect during the British Colonial rule with establishment of a newspaper called “Iwe Irohin” in 1859. From 1859 to 1860 many newspaper came into newspapers then were owned by individuals-and political parties, notable among them were Richard Deale Blaize, the founder of Lagos Times’ in 1863, the observer was founded by Brekall Benjamine in 1882 while George Autus published the Lagos standard to mention but a few.

It would be recalled that the important landmark was reached when the late Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe launched the West African pilot in Lagos, this added a new impetus to newspaper writing and presenting. This prompted the government to go into newspapers business which culminated into politics as its concerns print media Nigeria.
Britain started radio service in the colonial era by establishing the then Nigerian broadcasting service (NBS), which made its debut in 1952. The name was later changed to the Nigerian Broadcasting corporation and is today call the Federal Radio corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). International broadcasting service came into existence in Nigeria through an external service known as voice of Nigeria.

The first television station was established in Ibadan in 1959 by the Western Nigerian government. It should be noted from the above that before 1950, the media were fully controlled by private individuals and political parties and were fully used then for nationalist struggles, which implies that media were politicized from early times. When Nigeria became independent in 1960, short government control of the media became the talk of the day. Consequently, this study will examine the influence of politics on the media.

Within 50 years since Nigeria won her independence from the British, eight military and four civilian governments have rules the country. The press as the fourth estate of the realm must have been trying to make the government accountable to the citizenry. This can only be possible where the watchdog function of the press exist. Generally, it is believed that the press is free in one military dictatorship than the other. Based on this assumption, this researcher asked this question. ‘Was the press free in Babagida’s regimes than in Abacha’s Administration?

1. To find out whether journalists were more critical of Banbangida’s administration than Abacha.
2. To determine whether there were more repressive press laws during Abacha’s tenure than Babangida’s regime.
3. To find out whether there were more newspapers and magazines during Babangida’s administration than during Abacha’s era.
4. To find out whether there were more cases of harassment of journalists during Abacha’s regime than that of Bagangida.

1.4 Research Hypotheses
1. Journalist were more critical of government during Abacha than Babangida’s tenure.
2. Repressive laws were many in Abacha’s regime than during Babangida.
3. There were more newspapers and magazines during Babangida’s regime than that of Abacha.
4. There were more cases of harassment of journalist during Abacha’s regime than Babangida’s regime.

1.5 Research Questions
1. Did journalist hold critical opinion against government during babangida than Abacha’s regime?
2. Were there many repressive press in Abacha’s regime than Babangida’s regime?
3. Were there many newspapers and magazines in Babangida’s government than Abacha’s regime.
4. Were there more cases of harassment of journalists in Abacha’s regime than in Babangida’s government.

1.6 Significance of the Study
Press freedom is an important concept, as far as journalist is concerned. Generally, it is believed that the media cannot carry out their basic functions in the society, if they operate under strict control especially, from government restriction which is always demoralizing.

In the developing countries, people seem not to recognize the difference between one military government and the other in respect of press freedom. Hence this study attempts to highlight such differences and also prove empirically the truth of the speculations that Abacha’s regime produced responsible oppress than Babangida’s regime.

Moreso, the study will also be one of the current works on the influence of politics on the media in Nigeria. therefore, this study will be interest to communication scholars, students, professionals, journalist and the general public.

1.7 Limitation of the Study
This study was limited to media workers in Uyo municipality in Akwa Ibom State due to limited time and resources available to this researcher.

The study was also limited to Babangida and Abacha’s regimes not because they were ideal in terms of press freedom, but because it was believed that the two regimes will form the basis for analysis comparative press freedom under to different military regimes.

For better understanding of all the issues that will be raised in this study, the following terms are defined; media, journalism and freedom.
a. Media: The 1979 constitution of Nigeria defines media as the radio, television, newspapers and all agents of communication. For the purposes of this study, we will concentrate on the freedom to publish or operate any medium of communication. babangida
b. Journalism: Journalism is defined by the Encyclopedia Americana 1974 as the collection and periodical publication of current events.
c. Freedom: Freedom according to Paul Procter (1981) is a state of being free… and having the power to do, say, think or write as one pleases. Just like procter has postulated, freedom in the context of this study will be synthesized as a state of being free, not tied or bound, not shut up or held in. babangida

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