Happy World Press Freedom day 😀
I remember that my first op-ed to be published in a national newspaper was anchored on the Freedom of Information Bill that had been lounging at the Nigerian National Assembly for a while. I implored the government to kindly take swift action and pass the bill into law.Nigeria’s democracy was quite nascent then, and I highlighted the fact that passing it into law would be a consolidating step in the direction of our newly adopted mode of governance. We needed to run as far away as possible from anything that resembled military rule. This was in 2003. I was an undergraduate with journalistic fire burning in my bones. Till date, the bill is still been tossed and turned like a plate of unappealing pasta.
Thankfully, before the elections, the two chambers of the assembly made a move on the bill and passed two different versions. NEXT Newspapers (a Nigerian news daily) tells me that now the elections are over, the Assembly has said “the FOI bill will equally be given accelerated treatment in harmonising the two versions passed by both chambers”. I will be looking forward to this.
The true freedom I will like to celebrate today however, is the new freedom delivered into our hands by social media. The Internet is one sphere of communication that has swiftly by-passed the control of nation-states. Even the Great Firewall of China knows that it has met its match.
The Internet has lived up to the motto many have claimed and defaulted – the voice of the voiceless. It has given the masses the freedom to not only be consumers, but producers of content for mass consumption. This to me is the true freedom we should be celebrating – especailly in Africa where ICT adoption rates are rising gradually.
However the mini-pessimist in me cannot stop wondering if this freedom will be short-lived. Questions are already being raised as to who will or is controlling the Internet?
Here is an audio piece from the BBC World Service (iPlayer) on government and companies wanting to control the Internet. Harvard’s Professor Jonathan Zittrain wonders if the original ethos of the web is under threat.
People, governments and organisations want control of the internet for various reasons – some for religious reasons in terms of curbing pornography, others to slam down on illegal file sharing of creative content and so on. It’s a massive debate.
I will therefore simply enjoy the freedom of the digital sphere while it lasts.. and ofcourse closely monitor developments on this issue as they unfold.
Once again, happy World Press Freedom Day … I have a few readings outlined below.