The Press and her Essentiality to government


“A free and independent press is the core institution connecting publics to the information they need to advocate for themselves, make informed decisions, and hold government officials accountable.” – Share America

This quote will be the basis on which this editorial is formed. It will also be very essential in understanding this editorial. The keywords in this statement will be analysed in the context of the student environment to understand the essentiality of the press to the student government and maybe, just maybe, clear any misconceptions about the press through proper education and factual analysis.

Free and Independent Press
Freedom of the Press as defined by professor Robert Stevenson is the right to speak, broadcast or publish without prior limitations by the government with minimum legal infractions after publications for the violation of the law. In other words, Freedom of the press is the ability to publish any true and important facts without any fear of harassment, legal infractions, and limitations.

Going by this definition in the university community, is the Press free? Pertaining to the affairs of the student government, the campus press is widely regarded to be free. Campus press organisations including AFAS Press have the freedom and independence to publish any true and important facts no matter how controversial. A brief study or look at the publications of the press organisations around the university will prove this fact, The freedom of the press has helped in tackling serious issues, bringing about positive change to a very large extent, holding student political leaders accountable, and ensuring the right things be done.

Core Institution
Is the press a core institution? It is common knowledge that the press is also known as the 4th estate and is a very crucial part of any democracy. They are referred as the 4th estate as they have the ability both implicitly and explicitly to talk about issues emanating from governmental decisions that affect the general public. That is they can challenge harmful government policies and can challenge political systems. They also have great influence in some ways on public affairs. The press reference as the 4th estate or the fourth arm of government as the case may be is due to the fact that they serve as watchdogs over all the arms of government.

Is the press of a core institution in UI? The answer can be figured out by now. The press in the university performs very similar roles to mainstream press organizations. They are also watchdogs and the 4th estate of the student government. It is high time this fact started getting realised. The role of watchdog journalists is to keep watch and get information about the people that hold political power and ensure that they hold the officials elected into power accountable.

This means that any information published by any campus organization is not to malign and destructively criticise but to hold elected officials accountable to the people they serve and to their words.

Many a time, some articles are published analysing if a student political leader has achieved at least a huge percentage of plans listed in his or her manifesto. This is done to hold the leader accountable and not to malign them in any way.

Connecting Publics to The Information They Need
In explaining this, it is important to explain the keywords contained in this to aid better understanding:

Connecting– In this context, it means “bringing”. This simply means that the press serves as a connector between the general public and other arms of government by bringing the true and credible information they need. This means it is majorly the responsibility of the Press to publish true and credible information as they serve as the connector. Whether they are favourable or not, it is the role of the Press to bring any information to the people, and in this case, AFASites.

Public– The “public” in this context is the general populace, in other words, the citizens. In the UI context, the public is the general students and members of various halls, faculty, and departmental associations as the case may be. For instance, for AFAS Press, the public is the students of the Faculty of Arts and AFASites.

Information– Information in this context is what the public need to know to achieve their purpose of need to know and in the context, they need to know. For instance, it can be in a sports context, to know what is happening in the world of sports. Relating it to this context, it is what they need to know about the state of student affairs.

Having explained the keywords, it has become easier to understand at this point that the press has the responsibility of publishing the information that the public needs as they also serve as a connector.

Press as cause for advocacy
The term advocate refers to plead case or drum support for something or someone. The information the public gets from the press particularly, information bordering on their welfare and well-being, especially about governance enables them to advocate for themselves to enable good governance.

For instance, there were publications by AFAS Press at the tail end of the last session criticising the then executives for not providing Afasites their complete packages. This led to Afasites at that time, clamouring for their packages. Some even went as far as reporting to relevant authorities in the management. This is a form of advocacy.

In the mainstream world, this can be seen in many cases, particularly concerning the End Sars protest and Nigerian Youths’ resurgence of interest in political activities. This can mostly be attributed to the information they get from mainstream newspapers like The Punch, Guardian, etc.

Causative Factor of Informed Decisions
Many scholars and philosophers have described knowledge as power. A popular quote by Kofi Annan states; “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating…”
The knowledge gotten from credible information the student populace receives from the press enables them to make informed decisions such as whom to vote for, whether to participate in politics, speak out on a certain matter, recall their representatives in the house, etc.
These informed decisions help reshape the student government to become more student-centric and enable the right leaders to be in the power. This will bring sustainable development to the student union, faculty, department, or hall as the case may be which will bring great benefits to the students concerned and by extension, the press.

Hold government officials accountable
This is perhaps the most important of them all. It can also be examined from two different points of view; the Press and the public.

The Press
As earlier stated, the press is the 4th estate of the government and also serves as the watchdog. Its major responsibility aside from publishing up-to-date and credible information is holding government officials to their words, actions, and to the people.

They are essential in the sense that they constructively criticise any erring government official or any government official that did not fulfill his or her stated plans in his/her manifesto. This, in many ways, influences the public positively. This also applies to student journalism and press organisation. They perform this role through many of their publications and has influenced the general student populace.

The Public
As earlier pointed out, the public is the citizens or the general student populace as the case may be.
The public can hold government officials responsible through the information they get from the press. The press enables them to be up to date with happenings with the government.

The general student populace is also included in this. They can hold the student leaders accountable and can elect individuals into power through the publications from press organizations.

From the aforementioned points, it can be seen that the press is very essential to the student government. The Press’ essentiality cannot be overemphasised and as such, student leaders or members of the University community should not see the press as enemies or detractors but as helpers and contributors to the development of the institution. They should also realise that the development of this institution and every decision made by student leaders affect everyone including the members of the press. As such, the Press will always want what is best for the faculty, or hall or university community at large.

As a final message;
Dear AFASites and student leaders, our publications are not to malign, destroy, insult or “misinform” but to bring about positive changes in the faculty as it also affects and concerns us too.

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