Nigeria | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Nigeria

Nigeria

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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

52

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

21

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

16

In theory, Nigeria's constitution guarantees freedom of expression, but restrictive laws and administrative policies effectively shackle the right to freedom of expression. In April, a libel lawsuit was filed against several senior editors at the Sun publishing company; and in July, a journalist was arrested and charged with publishing "false information" in contravention of the penal code. Following calls from civil society groups, the government ultimately reviewed the 1999 national communication policy, and a well-regarded draft document was issued at year's end that promised sweeping reforms in policy and legislation, including government pledges to grant licenses in the community radio arena and to expunge the criminal defamation law and other restrictive legislation. In a positive development, the lower house of parliament finally passed a freedom of information bill in August (five years after its introduction), and it is now awaiting concurrent senate ratification.

In 2004, Nigeria's media environment was characterized by numerous acts of violence targeted mainly at reporters and photojournalists by police, security forces, and nonstate actors acting on the behest of powerful politicians or government officials. No fewer than 50 attacks, ranging from harassment, detention without trial, and assaults, were recorded during the year. In Anambra state, armed bandits burned down two broadcast stations, yet the police made no arrests. In response to such forms of intimidation, some journalists refrain from reporting on rights violations or otherwise practice self-censorship. These developments prompted the freedom of expression community in the country to call on the government and the parliament to give more effective guarantees to freedom of expression in the constitution and in statutes.

Some of the worst vestiges of the country's authoritarian past have resurfaced in the arbitrary power of the State Security Service (SSS), which in September made the chilling announcement of a policy it called a "grand strategy for national security," designed (among other things) to protect "presidential rights" against "irresponsible and unprofessional" media. The grand strategy, the SSS also claimed, would be for "the protection of the security interest of all individuals, communities, ethnic groups, and all institutions in the country." Between February and November, security forces expelled the correspondent of The Economist and a reporter of Time magazine and banned the correspondent of the BBC from Borno state. In September, the offices of local newsmagazine Insider were raided and their equipment confiscated.

The federal government and several states own some print and most broadcast outlets, but many privately owned newspapers and broadcasters operate freely and provide diverse, vibrant, and often critical views. Owing to the relative cost of newspapers and television, radio remains the most widely accessible means of gaining information. Foreign broadcasters such as the BBC and Voice of America generally operate without restriction and provide an important source of news; however, in April the National Broadcasting Commission banned the live transmission of foreign news and programs. Nigerian media continue to face several other challenges, ranging from corruption and poor management of media outlets to shrinking advertising markets that affect their financial viability. At an annual editors' convention in August, participants isolated corruption as the major crisis facing the profession. Corruption on the beat and at the desk is widely believed to be undermining the media's capacity to play their true role in Nigeria's democratic march. Yet despite these challenges, media continue to be a major force for national unity, rule of law, and social and economic change.