The Role of the Press in Democracy

The Role of the Press in Democracy

Democracy in its simplest definition means government of the people, of the people and for the people. It its often referred to as government of popular participation, even though sound schools of thought will argue  that democracy in the contemporary society cannot accommodate every member of a society, what can be possible is representative participation.

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However, in its original form  and as practiced in ancient Greek city stated and approximated of New England town meetings and swiss contions, Democracy simply means full participation of all citizens in the daily routine of administration of community affairs. Literally however, democracy means government  of the people, by the  people and for the people. This is derivative from two Greek word that make up the  word “Democracy” which literally means people to be ruled.

Yet. Some western political theorists for example, kotler how holds the view that democracy is only a system of government that guarantees direct maximum popular control over the decision.

From the foregoing, it is clear that democracy as the ancient Greek developed it entails  the participation of every member of a society.  Meanwhile, the participation will be difficult to obtain or guarantee in modern societies or state, in its purest form. What could be obtained is therefore representation.  To this  and Robert Dahl and others, believe that is safe only in the hands of popularly elected elite whose powers are limited and who can be removed while in the officer by the people whenever their wishes are not being not. Thus, the focus of the thesis is on effective popular control over  the elected representative of the people as opposed to direct participation, which is in modern control, neither desirable nor attainable. Invariably, what we call democracy today is representative government. If means that the citizens should choose those they feel could represent their interest and government on their behalf according to the principles of majority rule. In other words, the philosophical basis of representative government is the idea of popular sovereignty.

Essentially whatever may be the difference is important to note that ideal democracy, guarantees the government that will be in the interest of the people. The government that will be responsive to popular wishes and guarantee that every citizen must have some share in the decision –making process either by way of directs participation, by way of electing the decision makes and popular control.

Indeed, democracy must hold certain common promises that makes it 50 attractive to all who profess or aspire to practices it. In its quality, shunning all forms of class differences. In its  economic sense, it attempts to level inequalities in wealth. And in total and political sense, it aims basically at securing the consent of the governed, protecting his human personality and achieving the well.

If it is agreed that these are the goals of democracy, to how than can a governmental system achieve the goal ? Or if any goal system claim to level itself as democratic, what features do are look for a system. Perhaps, an answer to these questions would help in quintessence of democracy.

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POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY: For a democratic system of government, it is necessary that sovereign power resides in the  people. If the ultimate command of fill and exclusive legal power, command of fully and exclusive legal power, what we have is autocracy or dictatorship and if it is on the hands of a few people , we have oligarchy, aristocracy and not democracy.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL: This implies that the equal access of all members of the society to the political decision making process must be guarantee. It also requires economic independence and job security. More importantly, it means one man, each vote weighted equally with another. Every individual must not only have the right to vote but also the right to be voted for in any election.


          In democratic setting it is compulsory opportunity to choose from competing alternative, political to complement the peoples right to political equation, genie alternative policy programmes must be presented to the people at elections to enable them make real choices. This is than achieved by organizing the political elite into factions or parties with different political prgrammes.

 REGULAR PERIODICAL ELECTIONS: This has dual advantages of providing an orderly changes of government and of providing a channel for the  expression of the citizens wishes at regular intervals. The people can therefore be fee to make a reasonably choice out of competing alternative political ideals and leaders.           

 POPULAR CONSULTATION: Popular consultation is also a way of sounding the wishes as regards to what policies they want to adopt. After identifying the wishes, the ruling elite must ensure that the wishes are translated into public policies decisions is the satisfaction of the people. The kind of two way communication envisaged have requires a public that is reasonably in formed on civil matter and adequate and open channel of communication, an intelligent and independent press,  and freedom of association and discussion,

It is under this situation that the citizens can contribute to the decision making process, through public opinioned in speech or writing in associations, group or public meetings praise or blame the government and criticize policies with suggestion for other lines of action without hindrance.

 WELL INFORMED ELECTORATE: Although the previous discussed features has identified the essence of communication in democracy it is still necessary to isolate it as an important different characteristics of democracy. Essentially, the idea of democracy thrives better where the voters are literate and  well informed this view is not held so as  to equate democracy people with educated people. This is more practicable in the modern societies where every issue is given wide publicity on radio, Tv and the press.


It is now clear that democracy is a philosophy that is based on the a aforementioned principles and features. It has the capability to ensure popular participation, freedom of political action and to draw upon the talents of the greatest number of members of a polity for the promotion and satisfaction of common interests. Basically, inclusion in power means collusion in its benefit.

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However, the principles and the benefits of democracy cannot be attained and have not being attained any where in the world without the power and roles of the press. In other worlds, the role of the press in democracy cannot be overemphasized. It is observable that are interviewer with communication. Any attempt to promote democracy must start with the  education of the people, so that they can appreciate the choices be fore then and acquire the  ability and character to be have rationally and participate actively in the process of governance. Without education, people cannot understand the essence of democracy and general issue of public interest and in such a situation, it would be presumptions to  expect the people to exercise independent judgement or tolerate others point of view and political choice or decision. This is where the press comes into democracy and that is why democracy cannot be separated from the press.

Democracy involves a responsibly  a responsibly understanding of rights and obligations by the people, in every situation and also involves the  appreciation of the nature and dimensions of issues to be decided. The understanding and appreciation process are done by the press in any democratic setting. But the ability of the press to functions in broadcasting the base of information showing and in democratizing public established particularly in Nigeria.

In other needs, it is already established that, the press has a profound effect on the thinking of the people, of least. Barnard. Cohen has said that the press may not be  successful much of time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its reads what to think about” but the question of how the Nigeria, press have been able to show the civil society the light to follow towards a proper functioning democracy still remains unanswered empirically.

Therefore, this study is  set out to find out what  really the roles the Nigerian press in particular has performed in entrenching and sustaining democracy in Nigeria. The study shall this endeavor to find out how much effort has been made by the Nigerian press to strengthen the resoling of those forces and institutions that are designed or oriented towards the sustenance of democracy.


The Nigerian press has  been criticized for subverting the course of democracy rather than furthering it. Take for example accusation against certain section of the press often referred to as Lagos / Badin axis as promoting sectioned interest rather than n than national. Nigerian Tribunal which is owned by chief Obafemi Awolowo clan has been variously accrued of contributing to the fall of the second republic as its consist. Tent criticism of Alhaji Shehu shagari government led to military intervention of December 31, 1973.

Equally, the role of the Nigerian press under the military, especially after month of the annulment the June 12, 1993 presidential election has come under criticism by those in government. Although the press was in the vanguard of agitation for democratic rules, many continued to accuse the press as playing a sub-versive role in the country.

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The purpose of the study is therefore to find out the contributions of the press, particularly the Nigeria press in the development, entrenchment and sustenance of democracy. What are the roles of the press in democracy in general and how has the Nigerian press fore in performing the roles are the major knowledge the study  intends to find out.

In finding out all these, these study shall also analyze the legal and other constraint on the expected roles of Nigerian press in democracy struggle.


The study shall be of immense benefit to the society as a whole. It will be beneficial particularly to the Nigerian furnish, by affording the knowledge of how they have fared since independence on the enthronement and sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. The study shall let then know the true position in the democracy struggle in Nigeria and shall let then know how well or otherwise they  have performed their expected roles in the democracy struggle. The study hall open up to the journalism the constant hazards and obstacle that have impended or hinder the performance of their roles in enthronement of democracy in Nigeria and shall give break light on how to remove the constraints.

Another major benefactor and its officials. It would also afford these group of people the knowledge of how they have helped or hindered the  press in performing its expected roles in democratic struggle. There by, the study shall be a source of aspiration for change in their attitude towards press and their roles in a democratic dispensation.

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