Freedom Of Expression And The Question Of Relevance By Adamu Tilde
With the passing of FOI bill into law by Nigeria’s Parliament, the bill gives an open-cheque to all and sundry in expressing their view and opinion even if it may go contrary or detrimental to the unity, peace and progress of our dear country. So many people confuse the meaning and interpretation of Freedom of Information and/or Expression as Freedom of Irresponsibility—so much so that, every Tom, Dick and Harry could come-up with whatever his beleaguered mind is able to conjure and post it in the name of status or tweet. In another case, people are in haste to post information without verifying the fact, censoring its authenticity or assessing the impact that it may have on the relationship of the inhabitant of our dear country as if we are in a contest of who is who in disseminating false information.
Given the break-through that Mark Zuckerberg had in creating Facebook and the easy access to other social networking site: twitter, BBM, Whatapps, blogs etc. The medium in exercising this right become relatively simple and regrettably, provide a platform for the expression of the long over-due hatred that the inhabitant of this country harbor to one another.
In reality, Freedom of Expression doesn’t accord once the right to criticize where there is no justification or to ridicule despite one may probably end-up being ridiculing himself or to condemn while one doesn’t have the intellectual rigor to comprehend let alone understand the subject of discussion.
“Freedom of Expression is the right accord to everyone in expressing his view and/or opinion while he takes into account the right of others by being sensitive to their feeling, belief and culture.” But what some of us are expressing nowadays is not Freedom of Expression rather it is Freedom of Irresponsibility. And this can be seen in our quest to see how many comments or re-tweet one has on a thread and/or post. This led to the born of activist and arm-chair critics, Nationalist and Ethnic chauvinists, Securlarist and Religious fanatics and what have you. Of all these set of people: there are some that can truly answer their name in their choice profession whereas, there are those for the sake of relevance, despite their outright ignorance of the subject matter, still went ahead and bear some dubious tag in the name of activism thereby displaying their intellectual prostitution.
With participation in social networking (Facebook and Twitter) on the rise; giving its ability to hide one’s identity, many people do cease such opportunity in exercising their right albeit in retrogression by establishing a household name in insulting or ridiculing everything that has to do with PDP-Led government. Some are notorious for their intolerance to other peoples’ belief, some are famous and celebrated for the defense of their region though many at times the position is in indefensible. However, there are those who you cannot resist re-visiting their wall again and again. Gimba Kakanda, Ibraheem A. Waziri, Benjamin Amaechi, I.G. Wala, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, Petra Akinti Onyegbule, Japeth Omojuwa, Aminu Gamawa come to mind. And this is based on their objectivity and sincerity of purpose.
We must as a matter of ridding our cyber-space and other news outlets from Journalism Prostitution that we are celebrating in the guise of Freedom of Expression embrace all the ethics that define mass communication. We must learn to respect other peoples’ opinion and views even though we may disagree (which is bound to happen) with their position. Respect is a three dimensional: the one we have amongst ourselves, another we give to others and the third we expect from them. You cannot expect others to respect you, your belief, region, or opinion while at the same time you are not meting-out such to them. Equally, nobody will respects you while you disrespect yourself by posting unsubstantiated information, instigating your people to hate other people or trading blames to other people for your woes while you fail to do your homework properly. We were accorded freedom of expression for us to express ourselves without prejudice. We were not given that right to show our mental immaturity or to buttress our intellectual hollowness.
Nigeria is our country, we are the suppose vanguard in changing our sorry situation. And we can’t achieve that by exchanging insults with our fellow countrymen. Despite the shortcoming of the law in addressing the punishment of those that confuse FOE as Freedom of irresponsibility or Freedom of displaying insanity. At an individual level, we should learn to use our words cautiously without trampling on the right of others with respect to their feelings, belief and culture. As a society, we have a moral and collective responsibility by ensuring that our friends, colleagues, brothers in faith play the game by its rule. Where they write something meaningful, we should applaud them and encourage them; where they erred or write rubbish, we should admonish them even if we will invite their wrath of uncensored words. We should avoid making a general statement. We should desist from finger-pointing. We can make our point without necessarily arousing the anger of other people by being cautious with our words. We should learn to desist from blaming others for our woes, rather, we should blame ourselves for our inability. People do measure one’s intelligence and exposure by what he writes. May God almighty save us from us as Gimba Kakanda would have said.
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