A free press is a critical part of democracy and a progressive state. Across Nigeria there is a wealth of talented journalists doing important work to produce high quality independent journalism, holding those in power to account. However, freedom of the press is coming under increasing pressure. This briefing focuses on the Niger Delta, where independence of the regional media from political influence has degraded over the past 20 years. It is now at the point that politicians effectively have control over the output of many journalists and media houses in their state.
This briefing explores how state governments in the Niger Delta exert control over local and regional media outputs, and the consequences. It is based on research that tracks the evolution of this relationship between 1999 to 2019, through interviews with local journalists, publishers, and government officials.
- Freedom of the press in the Niger Delta has come under significant threat by successive state governments that use the political and coercive power of the state to influence local journalists and media outlets, threaten their safety and well-being, and control the public narrative.
- Many local media outlets and journalists are coerced into maintaining positive coverage of the state government, or risk losing their livelihoods—or lives. Under such high levels of pressure, it can be hard for even the most credible journalists and activists to retain independence.
- Biased journalism impedes a healthy civic space, democracy, and development as it limits the availability of accurate information in the public domain. Citizens rely on this to hold their representatives to account.
Also see our related report on civic space