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Published On: Wed, Nov 22nd, 2017

Boundaries of free speech

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By Usman Adams

Although the Nigerian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, to all its citizens, but it must be quickly added that what the constitution guarantees is “Ordered Freedom”.
In expressing this right some people even mistake this freedom for the recently enacted freedom of information act.
Simply put, a person may not he called a thief when he has not been convicted of the crime by a court of competent Jurisdiction. Similarly although in a democracy, opposition is allowed, but government and its officials may not be unjustly and maliciously vilified just for the opposition to thrive.
Although the press is charge with the additional responsibility as the watchdog of the government it must carry out this duty with a great sense of responsibility.
The press should therefore not allow itself to be used by those who don’t wish the country well to promote divisive tendencies that may tear the country asunder.
That is why it is a requirement for all schools of journalism to teach that aspect of the law that deals with violation of people’s right and to take a proactive action to prevent those who may wish to use the media to abort such rights.
But many Nigerian’s are concerned and alarmed that the media is constantly being used to mount campaigns of calumny against individuals and groups that do not toe their line of political belief or religion or ethnicity. Some of these officials of government often in most cases do not have the opportunity and the luxury to reply such bare-faced lies and accusation. In carrying out their orchestrated mission some self-styled Independent Radio Station and the social media are active collaborators in the campaign against the government of President Mohammadu Buhari and some of his top officials. Many Practitioners of the profession seem to have abandoned the two cardinal principles of Journalism- Investigative and interpretive Reporting which are been jettisoned in preference for an easier resort of assembling those dimed as experts in the opinion of Presenters of this radio Station where opinion’s are often freely treated to achieve a pre-determined result, most of the views that come out of this stations in and around Abuja seemed to be tailored at tormenting the government, its officials, its policies and programme with the impression that nothing good can ever come out of Nazareth.
The governments carefully and thoughtfully laid out programmes and policies like the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) the N500,000 graduate teachers employment scheme; the Three Hundred and Fifty Thousand Training of artisans; the war against corruption and insecurity; the diversification of the economy through agricultural and Solid Minerals; the refunds in the NNPC; the monitoring bail out for the state government; the president foreign trips that are yielding positive benefits for the entire country are some of this policies that are been continuously and continually criticized by some groups, and individuals for reasons other than pertrotism. Let it be stated that it is time for all Nigerian’s to be reminded that too many divergent opinion’s recklessly expressed will only lead the nation to a state of confusion for it has been established over the years by political watchers that almost all Nigerian’s lay claim to knowing the problems facing the nation, but it does also appear that the more problems are identified the more compounded those problems seems to become. It is thereafter difficult to escape from the conclusion that too many divergent views will not lead the nation to a consensus that we all desire.
The solution to our problem may be found in what political scientist called the elimination of all irrelevant thoughts from our national discourse and a thought becomes irrelevant only if one dominant thought arises to assert itself over all others. For example when American’s proclaimed their unflinching belief in the democratic way of life, in representative government and institution, they were talking in the shadow of John Locke who had in England, subdued any significant protestation to the contrary. And that gave birth to the democracy which all Nigerian’s are now enjoying. The media should therefore be a Vanguard for the promotion of a consensus that will lead the nation to the part of progress and development and should resist the temptation of being used by the highest bidders whose sole aim is the promotion of ethnicity, tribalism and religious differences among the people for their own selfish ends . Nigerian’s should therefore be reminded that there is nothing like absolute freedom anywhere in the world and therein lies the boundaries of free speech.

Usman Adams, a Public Affairs Analyst writes from Abuja.

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