Nigeria | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Freedom of speech, guaranteed in the constitution, is generally respected in practice. Although Nigeria possesses a vibrant and often critical media sector, journalists continue to face restrictive laws, physical threats, and economic pressures that sometimes curtail their ability to cover sensitive issues. Criminal defamation laws remain in place under which several journalists were detained, arrested, or sued during the year in connection with stories on state-level government officials. In February, the senate repealed three laws that critics claimed restricted press freedom. Freedom of Information legislation, which had languished in the previous house of representatives since 1999, was reintroduced to the newly elected house in June and passed its second reading. In July, criticism from media and civil society organizations caused the national assembly to withdraw a new code of conduct that required journalists to confirm all sensitive information from the assembly prior to publication and warned of punitive action in response to "speculative journalism." Nigeria has a vibrant privately owned media sector, including a number of publications and a handful of television and radio stations that are often critical of government. However, individuals outside major cities rely primarily on federal- or state-government--owned radio for information. They do often have access to international programs such as VOA and BBC services. No new private radio stations were licensed during the year. Both state and private media owners reportedly proscribe coverage of certain issues. Journalists, particularly those covering sensitive issues such as corruption, often run physical risks. Several journalists were assaulted or physically threatened during the year, including a photojournalist severely beaten on live television by police aides to the vice president. In June, state security officials claiming to act on orders of the president bought all copies of an issue of Tell magazine that alleged corruption related to All Africa Games contracts. Corruption is widespread in the media sector; many journalists and editors, though not all, accept payments to run or kill certain stories. While some media outlets discourage the practice, journalists report that the practice is actively encouraged at some others. Journalists are poorly, often sporadically paid and lack job security.