1.1 Background of the Study

The mass media, by their pre-eminent position in national life, affect other sectors in national development. They are also affected and influenced in their functions by the operations of other sectors. It is against the backdrop of this feeling that one view the mass media and law as complementary sectors that infringe on each other in the facilitation of the operations of other sectors of the policy. The operation of law affects and influences the way the mass media function. In the same vein, the operations of the mass media equally affect and influence the operation of law in certain fundamental ways.

The concern of this is the paper is the issue of national security a very fundamental issue in national discourse. The question is, how do the mass media function towards enhancing national security? It is the assumption a priori that both sectors function towards enhancing national security. But in carrying out their respective functions, they encroach into each other’s domain and cause hiccups or dislocation to the system of the other. This paper, therefore, intends to examine this encroachment as well as the resultant dislocations, for the purpose of better understanding of how both sectors functions. It may also be necessary to proffer solutions to the problem of interference, with the aim of ensuring better functioning in order establish what is meant by the mass media, how they function as well as what the law is and how it affects the functions of the mass media.

 The Mass Media

Several scholars have variously described the mass media as gadgets used to effect mass communication for example, Defleur and Dennis (1981) define the mass media as “devices for moving messages across distance or time to accomplish mass communication.” The issue of application of the term “mass media” to technical devices is crucial to the understanding of the concept. Infact, the general acknowledgement of this conceptual fact of the mass media has resulted in the terse submission of Uyo (1987) that the mass media, being gadgets used to effect mass communication cannot be practiced.  According to him, it amounts to sheer “Verbicide” to refer to anyone as a “media practitioner”, because one cannot practice gadgets. He likens the pejorative use of this term to such unthinkable expressions as a “teacher practicing blackboard” or “a doctor practicing stethoscope thus, those involved in the operations of the mass media are gatekeepers who are responsible for the purveyance of information in the mass communication process. They are, therefore part of the mass media.

The Law

The law has been conceived in several ways, depending on each scholar’s perspective. Aigbovo (2000), list some of these definitions as follow: Carl Liewellyn: what officials do about disputes. John Austine: A command from a political superior to a political inferior backed up with sanctions for its violations. Oliver Wendel Holmes. The prophecies of what the courts will do. Sir Edward Coke: perfection of reasoning. Hans Kelsen: The primary norm which stipulates the sanctions. These definitions somewhat show the practical aspects of law in the sense that they focus on the operation of law. This has culminated in the emergence of various schools of through representing the different groups of scholars who view law from the same perspective.

Thus, we have positive law school, natural law school and utilitarian law school. However, whether any particular definition falls within a particular school does not fall within the purview of the paper. The concern is how law operates within the confines of a civilized environment. Generally, the common definition of law which encompasses the various definitions so enumerated is that it is a body of rules enacted to guide human conduct in any particular society.

By this definition, the various bye-laws in the states, the various codes guiding, professional practices of professional bodies including the National Broadcasting code and even the mass communication policy are all parts of the law, because they are all made to regulate conduct at different levels. But a close look at the various definition by scholars as stated above would reveal a kind of conformity with how the law has operated in Nigeria at various times. For example, the law under military regimes conforms to John Austin’s definition. It has been stated that the concern of this paper is how the operation of the mass media and the law encroach into each other’s domain as well as the implication of such encroachment to national security. It was also stated that national security is a fundamental issue in national discourse. National security therefore, is the erroneous equation of national security with territorial security. Nigeria today can boast of territorial security in the sense that it is fully protected against it neighbors who cannot dream of attacking Nigeria on their own. Such as move would be suicidal. But the country cannot place its national security on the same pedestal as its territorial security.

Ekoko (2004) has classified the definitions of national security into two broad groups.” The first is the military/strategic concept of security and the second (is), non-strategic socio-economic” Quoting the Encyclopaedia of the social science, he eventually defines security as “ The ability of a national to protect its internal values from external threat” (13).

It is in the light of this definition that AI-Mashat (1985) in Ekoko (2000) submits that national security transcends territorial defence and should focus on the physical, social and psychological quality of life of society and its members, both in the domestic setting and within the larger regional and global setting. From the foregoing, it is clear that the main index of national security is the maintenance of values within territorial boundaries. This is more meaningful in view of the current emphasis one nation to attack another just to satisfy expansionist tendency.

Thus, today national security functions to safeguard the internal working systems of a nation. This does not mean disregard for military security. National security may involve and include the strategies. But that has to do more external aggression. We are more concerned here with socio-economic indices as more relevant to our existence. The pertinent question then is: what are those values which should be protected to ensure national security? Values are in close affinity with norms, since values dictate by rules which determine human conduct. In the quest to control human conduct within the bounds of civilization, nations have made constitutions.

A constitution therefore is the grundnorm of a country, because it is the supreme law. And any law enacted which is inconsistent with any provision of the constitution becomes null and void to the extent of its inconsistency. But the constitution may not fully cover every aspect of life. Hence, there are other sources of laws made to guide citizens.

The Mass Media, the Law and National Security: The Nigerian Perspective

Other sources of law in Nigeria include legislations, customary law, received English law, judicial precedents and soon, from time to time, policies are enacted and various bodies established to continuously remind us to fall into line in the

1.      Surveillance

2.      Correlation of facts of the environment

3.      Transmission of heritage and

4.      Entertainment. The surveillance function involves mass media operates having to nose into the nooks and crannies of the society to fish out information that is of interest to the people.

In correlation, the media act to mediate even the taste of the people because they interpret the information so gathered by shifting and discarding what may not be in the interest of the people before purveying such information to them. By such interpretation, they help to create values (for culture) which are then transmitted from generation to generation. The three functions of the mass media, explained above, if closely examined would reveal the role of the media fostering national security. First, by effective surveillance of the environment, the mass media would unveil those areas, individual or entities that may likely constitute a breach of national security. Secondly, by correlation, the mass media assist other agencies to interpret the information so gathered about the environment and contribute in the utilization of such information to take steps to remedy any breach of national security or foster the perpetuation of practices that enhance national security. Thirdly, by transmission of culture, the media enhance the entrenchment of those norms, the defence of which constitutes national security.

On the other hand, the law constitutes to the perpetration of national security by ensuring that values are respected and protected. This it close by the creation of norms which guide human conduct. It must seek to punish any breach of values. That may threaten national security. It must be noted that national security is about people whose minds need to be geared towards the defence of values that enhance their collective dignity, that would make them secure from external aggression. The result of such a situation is development. The sacrosanct areas of law in this regard, are those that concern the dignity of man which if fully protected, would enhance peace and progress in a nation.

By this is meant chapter four of the Nigerian constitution (1999), which is on fundamental rights. The chapter encapsulates section 33-46. The most relevant of these sections to this paper, is section 39- the right to freedom of expression, including, freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. The operation of the mass media is provided for by this section. And it is the performance of their functions that the media collide with the law. It should be noted that sub-section 3 of the section (39) provide for enanctment that seek to punish aberrant use of the freedom so given in subsection 1. It has already been stated that the law exists to regulate conduct. There are thus, laws guiding the conduct of mass media men in the course of their duties. At times the regulation of conduct might run counter to the diligent performance of the stated functions of the media, especially where the operation of law takes the form of the definition of John Austin. Mass media operators are expected to operate within the confines of the laws guiding their operations without prejudice to section 39 of the 1999 constitution. Some of these of laws include libel (encompassing seditious and blasphemous libel), breach of confidence, copyright, contempt of court, leaking of official secrets, invasion of privacy and so on. Protection of values. For example, the first attempt at a concions and organized social change took place in 1984 during the General Muhammadu Buhari’s regime, with the establishment of the War Against Indiscipline (WAI). Various practices which were inimical to civilized conduct were classified as acts of indiscipline. There was therefore, the establishment of values which every Nigerian  was expected to cherish. Some of these are queuing, rather than rushing, patriotism, fairness and justice. The Recovery (MAMSER), with virtually the same focus as WAI. If the values of WAI and MAMSER can be religiously protected, then there would be a measure of national security. It must be noted that national security depends on the country’s leadership. The lesson from Africa indicate that from the greatest threat to national security emanates from the various countries rulers, who have constituted themselves into a band of brigands inexorably focused on the wanton plunder of the continent’s vast natural wealth.

Soyinka (2007, p.27) rightly notes:

“The theme of power is one that remains too pertinent to a continent which having freed itself from colonial tranny still finds itself obliged to contend with a renewed colonization from within. New leaders have colonized the populace they are expected to lead. This has resulted in the systematic impoverishment of the populance by those who seize power through the barrel of the gun or massive electorial fraud backed by full-scale thuggery”.


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