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For over a century, the press asserted the existence of a reporter’s privilege derivable from the constitution without which the reporters’ ability to maintain confidential relationship with sources critical to their right to freedom of expression is impaired. Their argument, consistently rebuffed by courts, weighs against the public need to ensure the integrity and authority of legislative, judicial, and administrative bodies. If freedom of the press means nothing more than freedom of speech, then the constitutional argument for special privileges, the right to remain silent, for journalists in court proceedings is weak. Chapter 11, Section 22 of the 1999 Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution commands that the media shall be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people, journalists and lawyers cannot cite provisions as defence, nor prescribed penalties, in litigations. Similarly, in the United States of America, the constitution expressly provides protection for the freedom of the press, without the right to refuse disclosing confidential sources. The Supreme Court held it could not entertain the notion that the First Amendment protects a newsman’s agreement to conceal the criminal conduct of his source, or evidence thereof, on the theory that it is better to write about crime than to do something about it. By the end of 2021, 6.4 billion smartphones are projected to get in the hands of citizens, compounding the struggle to precisely define “journalist”. This author, a journalist, lawyer and media law scholar, examined the concepts embedded in the right to freedom of the media versus the government’s right to ensure safety of the citizens and concludes that national security questions prevail over journalistic concerns, and good faith derogations are appropriate and do not impugn the right to freedom of expression of the press and speech. Using doctrinal and non-doctrinal methods of case law, books, journal articles and other secondary sources, the author concludes and recommends that the extant laws, though far from perfect, legislators should strike an effective balance between these three tensions by accurately defining terms like “national security”, and “press”, “journalist” and citizen to prevent government overreach.
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