The bitter thirty-year capsule — that is, the years between 1985 to 2015 were perhaps the most significant years in the definition of the Nigerian press from the perspective of abuses, resistance, and resilience. These three decades came to epitomise the challenge of being, and becoming, for an institution that has done so much for the freedom, and the development of the Nigerian nation. Never in the history of the Nigerian media did we witness that type of abuses, the types of mindless attacks, as we witness in the three decades under discussion.
Africa was undergoing the last breath of dictators and the resistance fever was intense. Eventually, something changed in the year 2000. The African Charter for the Political and Peoples Rights was ratified by the African Union as a continental charter and as a reference document for the defence and promotion of human rights of its people. With the birth of this treaty document also came the efflorescence of human rights organisations on the continent. One of the earliest of such organisations and certainly the first to be targeted for the promotion of media rights in our country is the Media Rights Agenda, MRA.
One of the human forces behind these processes is the newspaperman, and activist, Edetaen Ojo.
Edetaen Ojo started his journalism career at the flagship of the Nigerian press, The Guardian where he reported the Judiciary and excelled. He was a tireless but very determined reporter who without fail would be at the Newsroom every afternoon though his temperamental Datzun 280Z sports car often had other ideas. The battered car, which could barely take a passenger with the driver, would rather shoot the breeze on the traffic crazy Lagos roads than make it to the Rutam House.
Along the line, Edetaen became bigger than his Judiciary beat and needed to do something more challenging and less constrictive than struggling to meet up with the afternoon deadlines in the newsroom.In July 1999, he led Media Rights Agenda to present a draft Freedom of Information Bill to the then Nigerian House of Representative.
He has been a crusader for press freedom and worked with many organizations in rebuilding the media. He has been involved in regional and international human rights activism as Chairman of the Board of the Media Foundation for West Africa, MFWA, and member of the advisory group for the African Platform on Access to Information, the BBC World Service Trust-led Africa Media Development Initiative, AMDI and the Task Force of the UN Economic Commission for Africa. He has also contributed to the African Freedom of Information Centre, AFIC and the International Media Support, IMS.
As the former convener of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, IFEX in Nigeria, he worked tirelessly for the advancement of media and information issues, which bagged him an award by IFEX for activism on access to information in 2011, the year the Freedom of Information Act was legislated into law.