Press Freedom Under Siege: The Deepening Crisis of Trust in Nigerian Governance

By Femi Aderibigbe

As we mark World Press Freedom Day 2024, the shadow of constrained journalism looms large over Nigeria, challenging the theme of this year’s observance: the indispensable role of a free press in promoting government accountability and bolstering democratic institutions. However, under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration, the persistent arrest of journalists paints a grim picture of press freedom and raises critical concerns about the health of the nation’s democracy.

A poignant illustration of this troubling trend is the arrest of Ojukwu Justin Daniel, a journalist with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ). Daniel’s detention followed his investigative piece exposing alleged fiscal irregularities by a government official—misappropriations purportedly for educational enhancements. This kind of journalism is vital as it digs into stories that could drive significant reforms and underscore the necessity of accountability.

However, Daniel’s case is far from isolated. It represents a broader governmental strategy aimed at intimidating the media and muffling dissenting voices. Such actions do not merely restrict journalistic freedom; they actively erode public trust in governmental institutions. When the press is suppressed, it fuels skepticism and cynicism amongst the populace, leading to a vicious cycle where misinformation thrives and the public’s capacity to make informed decisions is severely compromised.

The ramifications of suppressing press freedom are profound and far-reaching. A silenced or manipulated press disrupts the fundamental checks and balances essential for democratic governance. By stifling critical voices, the government sends a clear message: not all stories are welcome, especially those that scrutinize power and expose governance flaws.

This systematic muzzling of the press has significant implications. Firstly, it widens the trust deficit between the citizens and their government, making cooperative civic engagement increasingly difficult. Secondly, it stifles the development of a healthy public sphere where ideas and information flow freely, thus degrading the quality of national discourse and policymaking. Lastly, in the international arena, it tarnishes Nigeria’s reputation as a democratic entity committed to upholding fundamental human rights.

On this World Press Freedom Day, reflecting on Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is more crucial than ever. This article guarantees the freedom ‘to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’, a principle that must be vigorously defended in Nigeria.

As we honour journalists worldwide for their courage and dedication, we must also stand in solidarity with those like Ojukwu Justin Daniel, who face significant risks to shed light on the truth. Upholding press freedom in Nigeria means demanding unyielding accountability from its leaders and ensuring a safe, unimpeded environment for journalism. Only through a truly free and robust press can Nigeria hope to rebuild trust between the government and its citizens, fostering a transparent, accountable, and democratic society.


Femi Aderibigbe is an Outreach Specialist and a Development Studies Scholar. Femi is a tech-savvy administrator and development practitioner with about 15 years of professional experience in government relations, nonprofit/programme management, grant-making and development communications. He is adept at working with a wide variety of community demographics to formulate beneficial programmes and issue resolutions. He serves as the Board Chair for ImpactHouse Centre for Development Communication, a tech-driven nonprofit driving a uniform understanding of development messages in Africa.

Photo source: The Guardian Nigeria


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