Freedom of Information Act and social media escapades: the challenges facing journalists in Nigeria
The Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA) was signed into law on May 28, 2011. The Act seeks to make public records and information freely available with a view to promoting open government as well as engender transparency and accountability in governance. Five years after the Act was signed into law, journalists and the citizens are yet to effectively utilize the Act to bring about good governance, and in the absence of credible and authoritative sources of information citizen are now relying on escapades from some social media networks for information that are speculative and tension generating. A total of 300 text messages and chats on Facebook and WhatsApp were reviewed and analyzed to determine the gullibility of citizens in information acquisition and dissemination. The knowledge gap theory propounded by Philip Tchenor et al., (1970) was used to stress the inequality in information acquisition between the privileged and ordinary members of the society. Our findings reveals that government agencies are yet to evolve the culture of record keeping to meet the requirements of the FOIA and that government and her functionaries are very reluctant in volunteering needed information. The paper recommends that public and private agencies should render public service by granting the pubic unfettered access to official information as a matter of obligation.
Keywords: Freedom of Information Act, Social media, Investigative Journalism, Public Institutions