1.1 Background to the study
In the passage of time, the Nigerian press has been frustrated by the problems of freedom that have become more difficult since 1960. After independence in the light of this, the Nigerian Press Council was established by Nigerian Press Council Decree No. 85 of 1992. This was announced by the government of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babagida to handle the complaints by members of the public in opposition to the conducts of the journalist in their professional competence. Through the amendments to its decree, General Abdulsalam Abubakar ‘s government vested in the council, powers earlier exercised by the newspapers Registration Board in the controversial Newspaper Decree NO. 43 of 1993.
Nevertheless, the Abubakar government annuls Decree No. 43 of 1993 and publish it on the same day that it was repealed. Without more ado and surreptitious re-introduced the obnoxious provision of the decree into the amended Press Council Decree, was without proper announcement. This was known as the Nigerian Press Council Annulments Decree No. 60 of 1999. The Nigerian Press Council new purpose includes the powers to register journalists as well as newspaper and magazines per annum. Be it as it may, the decree has legal sanctions on the proprietors and publishers of the newspapers and magazines, which fail to register in accordance with the provisions of the decree. It was understandable that newspapers owned and controlled by the government could not bring themselves to say anything critical of Decree 43. But even some supposedly independent newspapers could not acknowledge, much less denounce, the danger the enactment posed to Nigeria's long tradition of press freedom. Not only was the criticism of Decree 43 muted at best, even most of the publications that stood to be wiped out if the decree was rigorously enforced refused to be drawn into an action to challenge it at law. The Guardian which took on the fight in the end on November 18, 1993, the day after General Sani Abacha ended Ernest Shonekan's interim delusion, the Ikeja high court, Mr. Justice S.O. Ilori presiding, declared Decree 43 null and void and no consequences whatsoever, holding that Babangida had by an earlier decree divested himself of any lawmaking power
Similarly, in the year 2003, it was recalled vividly that the Newspaper owners instituted its own court to accept ethical complaints against the media, which was called the Ombudsman Mechanism. Justice Moronkeji Omotayo Onalaja a retired high court judge was appointed to preside over the court and receive petitions from members of the public, however its system proved abortive because the NUJ turn it down and for good reason since according to it then, its impossible for you to be judge of your own case and in extra precaution instructed all its members not to subscribe to it. Possibly newspaper owners should explain what became of its intervention through the Ombudsman Mechanism rather than discharging its annoyance on the Press Council Amendment bill, which from all indications is the only purpose and workable solution to establishing professionalism in journalism practices and curbing the excesses of media owners.
There are no doubt grey areas in the proposed amendment bill, although, believing that these grey areas can be thrashed out and a pleasant position brought to consensus by all rather than throwing away the baby and the bath water.
Under Decree 43 of 1993, eight years into the tenure of General Ibrahim Babangida, who had abolished Decree 4 imperatively and asked to be judged by his regime's human rights record.
Despite the draconian provisions of Buhari's Decree 4, that enactment is almost benign compared with Babangida's Decree 43, which sought to return Nigeria to the era of newspaper licensing that even the colonial authority had terminated some 70 years earlier.
A Newspaper Registration Board, to be established by the Federal Government and having as its members some superannuated, out-of-work individuals who had at various times been engaged in some form of journalism, was the vehicle with which this sordid task was to be accomplished.
Every newspaper title was to be registered anew with the posting of bonds and fees as huge as king's ransom. The Board could grant or deny registration without having to state any reason. Its decision could not be challenged in any court. Registration was to be carried out every year. Publication without prior registration could result in a fine of N200, 000 in the currency of that era, or imprisonment for seven years, or both fine and imprisonment.
However, successful registration did not guarantee uninterrupted operation. The Board could void registration at any time, without having to state any reason, and its decision could not be challenged at law. The entire premises of any newspaper which continued business after being denied registration would be shut down, together with other businesses operating there. Collateral damage, you know.
Publishing of the newspaper started in the year 1859, during the period of the early European Missionaries, by Rev Henry Townsend who established a printing press in Africa's oldest vernacular newspaper known as IWE IROHIN. The amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 its increase in nationalist tempo, the number of newspapers variety increased. With this, the amalgamation brought an increase to the market and circulation of newspapers. Between 1914 and 1945 sixty-four newspapers were published. The major instrument for political party publicity is the newspaper which has become a major tool for attaining political power. Therefore, publication of any material the authorities deemed disagreeable, that the proprietors and directors and every employee right down to the janitor would be held culpable as if they had personally published the material at issue. The penalties included a 10-year jail term for publication of 'false news. It is on this basis researchers such as I have chosen to venture into the evaluation of newspaper registration laws and compliance by newspaper proprietors in Rivers State. It's being observed that newspaper proprietors have not been complying to laws guiding the newspaper registration in Rivers State. This research therefore in a bid to assess the laws and conformant of newspaper registration.
1.2 Statement of problem
It is so far early to draw any firm conclusion about the evaluation of newspaper registration laws and compliance by newspaper companies in rivers state. This has raised a set of profound questions as to the quality of the form of reporting in the state. Do the proprietors follow due protocol while establishing a newspaper house? Do they abide by the laws guiding its establishment? How professionals are the proprietors? Inadequate finance? The poor condition of service? Are they equipped to deal with and comply with its laws?
The afore-mentioned constitute a great deal of problems, due to the fact that they contribute heavily on all business environments, affecting the quality of news coverage and reporting in the newspaper industry. In essence, this study is to look at the clogs recline to unravel the subjective laws and objectives saddled with the responsibility of meeting the requirement of the newspaper registration laws and processes that guide its operations.
1.3 Objective of the study
This study seeks to:
- Evaluate the newspaper registration laws that guide the newspaper proprietors
- Ascertain the laws that guide and protect its operations
- Determine how professionals are the proprietors in their field
- Highlight the compliance of the proprietors towards its registration process
1.4 Research question
This study seeks to answer some questions such as:
- In what extent do newspaper registration laws guides the newspaper proprietors
- How often do they adhere to the laws that guide and protect its operation to what extent are the proprietors' professionals in their field are there compliance by the proprietors towards its registration process
1.5 Significance of the study
This study will be relevant to the following:
The proprietors of newspaper houses: this will serve as a guide to the newspaper houses
Newsmen or staffs of newspapers: this will enable workers to improve their professional activities.
Students of journalism: It will notify them with the challenges which they are about to face, prepare and equip them fully as regards what they are to expect in their professional terrain
News readers and the Nigerian society: The essence of the newspaper industry is to tackle some problems within the publishing houses, their reader's expectation in terms of newspaper quality and reportage, would be met. The impediments of this include, the newspaper house would be able to disseminate objective reports.
Advertisers: This will be beneficial to advertisers through wide circulation, which will serve as a function of good management.
1.6 Delimitation of study
A study of the tide newspapers would be used to analyse the content of the study. However, a few newspapers which have suffered from similar problems will look at.
1.7 Operational definition of terms
Newspaper: It is any periodical publication printed with the assistance of a mechanical device and carries timely variegated events for the consumption
- Registration: A document certifying an act of registering
- Laws: The legal document setting forth rules governing a particular kind of activity
- Compliance: The act of submitting, usually surrendering power to another
- Proprietors: (law) someone who owns (is a legal possessor of) a business