Nigeria as a Nation Essay
Nigeria as a Nation
Nigeria as a democratic country like every other nation needs the media to drive or sustain good governance and engender national development. But the media often regarded as the fourth estate of the realm have an enormous task to accomplish this role as the watchdog of the society. The task or role of the media has to a large extent not been effectively accomplished. It is important here to state that the primary role of the media in any given society is to inform, educate and entertain.
This was encapsulated by Nwabueze (1982) when he stated that, “the media enable corruption, abuse of office and other wrongdoing by public servants to be publicly exposed”. Apart from these traditional functions, the media perform other sophisticated roles, such as surveillance, agenda-setting through persuasion and status conferral. This was stressed by Tony Momoh (1988) when he said that “the duty of the press in Nigeria is to monitor governance”. You can agree with me that these functions cannot be carried out without an enabling environment.
In Nigeria and other African countries, the media operate under a very harsh condition. For instance, about 80% of journalists in Nigeria do not earn salaries, not to talk of attractive wages. The few that are privileged to work in government media establishments receive salaries that are not commensurate with their work, Ukpabi (2001). Other problems like uncooperative attitude of officials in the public and private organizations in volunteering information to the media.
Public/civil servants often hide under the Secret Act to deny journalists information even if such information is of public interest. Despite the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill into law, journalists and indeed the general public are still finding it difficult to access information in Nigeria. This has confirmed the fears expressed by Dr John Idumange on 8th March, 2013 while delivering a lecture on Journalism Practice And The Constitutional Demands On Journalists-An X-ray Of The FOI Act during the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ) Port Harcourt Annual Lecture Series.
Dr Idumange captured it thus, “virtually all government information in Nigeria are classified as top secret. This culture of secrecy will make it difficult to get information from any Ministry, Department or Agency (MDA)”. This is further complicated by the introduction of brown envelope in journalism practice in the country. Brown envelope could be defined as a kind of gratification given to journalists after a media coverage by the organizers of such events, either to influence them or get favourable reports.
This new found culture has actually dealt a terrible blow on the independence and the effectiveness of the journalists in performing their duties as the watchdog of the society. How do you reconcile a situation where a news source gives a journalist bribe (brown envelope) at the end of a media assignment? What kind of report do you expect from that journalist? The brown envelope syndrome has resulted to every Dick and Harry becoming publishers because they believe that reporters will bring back money from the proceeds of the brown envelope at the end of every assignment.
All the so-called publishers now do is to issue the reporters with identity cards often referred to as “meal-tickets” to fend for themselves and even feed the publishers. Toure (1996). The consequence of this is the emergence of quackery in the journalism profession. In Nigeria today, everybody that has a note-pad and a pen on his hands can parade himself as a journalist. No wonder the journalism profession is fast sliding into an all- comers affair and pathetically the regulatory bodies, such as the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)and the Nigerian Press Council are not doing anything to check the ugly trend.
Apart from the aforementioned problems, other challenges like exclusion or discrimination of journalists from private sector by government ministries from attending their events, thereby creating room for speculation, as these private journalists resort to reporting government activities from the outside. This of course is not in the best interest of ministries, journalists and the society. This research will attempt to trace the genesis of these hiccups, especially the brown envelope syndrome as they affect the role of Nigerian media in contributing to national development.
Attempt will also be made in this study to suggest or find solution to the myriad of problems confronting media practice in Nigeria. The overall goal is to ensure that the media discharge their duties effectively as the watchdog of the society and major contributor to national development. 1. 1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY The media are said to have a role that is often described as indispensable in shaping the society and by so doing directing the people. The media ensure that people are treated fairly, social control is in place and roles are shared equitably, thereby contributing to the national development of the country.
It is the duty of the mass media to inform and educate the people on the realities of the environment to enable them take appropriate and informed decisions. It is one thing to have the role and yet another thing to perform it. There are so many factors that affect the performance of this role of the media. For instance, the media require a conducive atmosphere to perform this duty. But it is an open secret that the atmosphere with which the media operate in Nigeria is far from being comfortable. Ukpabi (2001).
Nigeria like every other country requires a vibrant press to make headway. It is often said that the press, just like the court is the hope of the common man and indeed the entire society. The question now is under what conditions have the media in Nigeria performed this statutory duty? This study will attempt to x-ray the roles of the media in Nigeria in national development. How they have faired in performing that duty. The effect of brown envelope on the media and the extent it has militated against the goals of contributing to national development.
Attempts will be made in this study to suggest ways of limiting or eradicating the effects of this cankerworm called brown envelope. The aim is to see that the media live up to expectation as the watchdog of the society and pacesetter in engendering national development. 1. 2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM The negative effect of brown envelope syndrome does not allow the media contribute to national development in Nigeria. This study seeks to trace the genesis and causes of “this encroachment” and recommend ways of tackling the problem.
In other words, attempts will be made in this study to suggest ways of ending brown envelope syndrome in journalism practice in Nigeria. The media no doubt control all aspects of our lives, locally, nationally and internationally. Therefore, there is an inter-relationship between the people and the media. The media dictate to the people what they read and hear and by extension how they behave. The public is therefore sharpened by the information from the media. The public has so depended on the media that it is generally believed that the society will be dead without the media.
This was examined by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw (1972/1973) when they emphasized that “the mass media has the ability to mentally order or organize the world for the people”. Daramola (2003) also corroborated this by stating that “the agenda-setting theory is of the view that the media often present to the audience certain basic socio-political and economic issues that dominate popular discussion and debate even at interpersonal level at some period of their history”. For the media to live up to this responsibility, a favourable atmosphere must be put in place.
As the media contribute their quota to the wellbeing of the society, it is expected that the people reciprocate by cooperating fully with the media. Nigeria is a complex country like every other nation; this complexity has also robbed off on the media in the country. Ownership and control, censorship, editorial policy, intimidation, imposition by authorities, ban, seizure of printed materials, incarceration ,proscription of media houses, obnoxious laws, lack of subvention and motivation are some of the numerous problems confronting media practice in Nigeria, which no media organization wishes to operate in.
These challenges have hampered the performance of journalists in the country and given birth to the hydra-headed monster of brown envelope or gratification before a journalist could perform his duties. Therefore, this study seeks to know the effect of brown envelope syndrome on the role of the media in national development. 1. 3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY The objectives of the study are as follows: 1 To determine the roles of the media in national development. 2 To trace the cause and effect of brown envelope on the media.
3 To determine the contributory effects of brown envelope syndrome on the media against national development. 4 To ascertain make ways of ending the menace (brown envelope). 1. 4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS 1 What are the roles of the media in national development in Nigeria? 2 What are the causes and effects of brown envelope on the media in Nigeria? 3 To what extent has this brown envelope syndrome militated against the media from contributing to national development?
5 How do we end the brown envelope syndrome in journalism profession in Nigeria? 1. 5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY The study of this topic, called Role of the Nigerian Media in National Development and the Effects of Brown Envelope Syndrome is significant in that the contribution of the Nigerian media to national development would be ascertained. The origin and effect of brown envelope on Nigerian media will also be established, with a view to exterminating the menace in journalism practice in Nigeria.
The overall goal is to enthrone a more efficient and responsible media in Nigeria that would effectively play their statutory role as the watchdog of the society. 1. 6 DELIMITATION/LIMITATION OF THE STUDY Due to the fact that the resources available for this study was limited, coupled with the time frame allocated to complete this study, this research was restricted to Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. 1. 7 DEFINITION OF TERMS MEDIA: Communication channels through which news, entertainment, education, data are disseminated.
ROLE: Part, duty or function performed to achieve a task. NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: The process of growth in all spheres of human endeavor within a national boundary over a period. EFFECT: Outcome or result of something on another. BROWN ENVELOPE: Kind of gratification given to journalists after a media function to either influence their report or appreciate them. 1. 8 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK Agenda Setting Theory: The Agenda-Setting Theory was propounded by Maxwell McCombs and Donald L. Shaw in 1972/1973).
The thrust of the theory is that the mass media have “the ability to mentally order or organize the world for the people,” Daramola (2003). Proponents of the agenda-setting theory were of the opinion that the media often present to the audience certain basic socio-political and economic issues that dominate popular discussion and debate even at inter-personal level at any given period in their history. For instance, the mass media can focus on an issue daily, thereby drawing the attention of the audience to the matter.
Currently in Nigeria, the mass media have gradually focused on the need for the convocation of Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to determine the continued existence of Nigeria as a nation. No wonder the Senate President, David Mark few weeks ago threw his weight behind the call and just on October 1st, 2013 during the 53rd independent anniversary of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan constituted a committee to that effect, thereby confirming the power of the agenda-setting theory of the media.
Since the media is the basic source of information for an average person on the street and it is generally believed that what the media report or focus on is important. The media through the agenda-setting function influence or control the thought of the people. Whatever the media focus on becomes what dominates public discussion. No wonder Combs and Shaw (1976) stated that the “media emphasis on the event that influences the audience to see the event as important… media not only inform us, but also influence us as to what is important to know.
” Cohen (1963) also emphasized that the agenda-setting power of the media is not particularly successful in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about. ” The era of militancy in the Niger Delta lent credence to the agenda-setting power of the media when they drew the attention of the entire world to the region. It is often argued that the militancy was overblown beyond proportion by the media, thereby making it more important than anything else.
The recent face-off between President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and the Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum and Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon Chibuike Amaechi was ( is) a case in point, when the media again displayed and are still displaying their power of dictating to the people what to think and discuss about. The state pardon granted the former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieseyegha also falls among the incidents where the media commanded the attention of the public or audience to their dictate.
This work will look at the extent this agenda-setting power of the media has contributed to national development in Nigeria. CHAPTER TWO LITERATURE REVIEW 2. 0CODE OF ETHICS FOR NIGERIAN JOURNALISTS According to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary ethic is system of moral principles, rules of conduct. While chambers Dictionary defines ethics as the study of right and wrong. Code of ethics for Nigerian journalists took the front burner on March 20th 1998 when the Nigerian Press Council organized a forum in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital and formally ratified the new (current) code for Nigerian journalists.
Code according to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary is collection of laws arranged in a system or system of rules and principles that has been accepted by society or a class or a group of people. The Ilorin declaration came on the heels of Decree No. 85 of 1992 as contained in the Nigerian Press Council, where eligibility criteria for entry into and practice of journalism in Nigeria were spelt out. The essence is to ensure that journalists adhere to high ethical standards and professionalism, bearing in mind that their jobs entail high degree of public trust. Delegates at the said forum affirmed and declared as follows: That we:
ACCEPT the imperative of a Code of Ethics as a vital pillar of journalism and the necessity for the application of ethics to enhance standards; AFFIRM that self-regulation through a Code of Ethics and other structures drawn up by professionals would best serve the interest of both the profession and the public; ENJOIN the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria to ensure the implementation of the eligibility criteria for entry into and practice of journalism in Nigeria, as contained in the Nigerian Press Council Decree No 85 of 1992; PLEDGE to abide by the Code of Ethics and to promote the observance of its provisions by all journalists; and URGE the Nigerian Press Council to collaborate with the Nigerian Press Organization to publicize the Code of Ethics for the benefit of the press and the public, and ensure compliance with its provisions hereafter. PREAMBLE
Journalism entails a high degree of public trust. To earn and maintain this trust, it is morally imperative for every journalist and every news medium to observe the highest professional and ethical standards. In the exercise of these duties, a journalist should always have a healthy regard for the public interest. Truth is the cornerstone of journalism and every journalist should strive diligently to ascertain the truth of every event. Conscious of the responsibilities and duties of journalists as purveyors of information, we, Nigerian journalists, give to ourselves this Code of Ethics. It is the duty of every journalist to observe its provisions as follows: 1. EDITORIAL INDEPENDENCE
Decisions concerning the content of news should be the responsibility of a professional journalist. 2. ACCURACY AND FAIRNESS i. The public has a right to know. Factual, accurate, balanced and fair reporting is the ultimate objective of good journalism and the basis of earning public trust and confidence. ii. A journalist should refrain from publishing inaccurate and misleading information. Where such information has been inadvertently published, prompt correction should be made. A journalist must hold the right of reply as a cardinal rule of practice. iii. In the course of his duties a journalist should strive to separate facts from conjecture and comment. 3.
PRIVACY As a general rule, a journalist should respect the privacy of individuals and their families unless it affects the public interest. A. Information on the private life of an individual or his family should only be published if it impinges on public interest. B. Publishing of such information about an individual as mentioned above should be deemed justifiable only if it is directed at: i. Exposing crime or serious misdemeanour; ii. Exposing anti-social conduct; iii. Protecting public health, morality and safety; iv. Preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of the individual concerned. 4. PRIVILEGE / NON-DISCLOSURE i.
A journalist should observe the universally accepted principle of confidentiality and should not disclose the source of information obtained in confidence. ii. A journalist should not breach an agreement with a source of information obtained as “off-the-record” or as “background information. ” 5. DECENCY i. A journalist should dress and comport himself in a manner that conforms with public taste. ii. A journalist should refrain from using offensive, abusive or vulgar language. iii. A journalist should not present lurid details, either in words or picture, of violence, sexual acts, abhorrent or horrid scenes. iv. In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries should be carried out and approaches made with sympathy and discretion. v.
Unless it is in the furtherance of the public’s right to know, a journalist should generally avoid identifying relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime. 6. DISCRIMINATION A journalist should refrain form making pejorative reference to a person’s ethnic group, religion, sex, or to any physical or mental illness or handicap. 7. REWARD AND GRATIFICATION i. A journalist should neither solicit nor accept bribes, gratifications or patronage to suppress or publish information. ii. To demand payment for the publication of news is inimical to the notion of news as a fair, accurate, unbiased and factual report of an event. 8. VIOLENCE
A journalist should not present or report acts of violence, armed robberies, terrorist activities or vulgar display of wealth in a manner that glorifies such acts in the eyes of the public. 9. CHILDREN AND MINORS A journalist should not identify, either by name or picture, or interview children under the age of 16 who are involved in cases concerning sexual offences, crimes and rituals or witchcraft either as victims, witnesses or defendants. 10. ACCESS OF INFORMATION A journalist should strive to employ open and honest means in the gathering of information. Exceptional methods may be employed only when the public interest is at stake. 11. PUBLIC INTEREST
A journalist should strive to enhance national unity and public good. 12. SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY A journalist should promote universal principles of human rights, democracy, justice, equity, peace and international understanding. 13. PLAGIARISM A journalist should not copy, wholesale or in part, other people’s work without attribution and/or consent. 14. COPYRIGHT i. Where a journalist reproduces a work, be it in print, broadcast, art work or design, proper acknowledgement should be accorded the author. ii. A journalist should abide by all rules of copyright, established by national and international laws and conventions. 15. PRESS FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY
A journalist should strive at all times to enhance press freedom and responsibility. 2. 1Instances Of Unethical Practices In Journalism Sensationalism in writing by journalists is one of the instances of unethical practices in journalism. A situation where a journalist deviates from the truth for reasons best known to him is to say the least unethical. In the course of sensationalizing the story, the journalist exaggerates and distorts the facts, which leads to misinforming the public. Nyamnjoh (1996). This kind of practice is not only wrong, but inimical to the growth of sound journalism practice in the country. Libel is another instance of unethical practice.
A libelous publication is a publication either in print or electronic media that defames the image of a person or corporate body. It is an outright falsehood on a person’s image deliberately done by a journalist for selfish interest. Sedition is yet another unethical practice in journalism practice in the world today. It is an act of using publication or broadcast to incite the public against the government. This is unethical by all ramifications. Accepting gratifications of any kind by a journalist to publish story against his conscience is unethical and should be condemned by all well-meaning persons. Name-calling in journalistic reportage is to say the least unethical.
Some journalists for reasons best known to them call people names such as thief, fraudsters, coward, amongst others without any evidence. Soola (1996). This is unethical and unprofessional and should be discouraged by all well-meaning Nigerians. 2. 2Primary Causes Of Unethical Practices In Journalism To be unethical simply means to act unprofessionally. Many factors have been adduced as causes of unethical practices in Journalism, especially in Nigeria. First is lack of welfare for practicing journalists in Rivers State and in Nigeria. It is an open secret today that most journalists practice or operate under unfriendly welfare package. In fact, seven out of every ten journalists practicing, in Nigeria are either not paid or paid peanuts as salaries.
This unfavourable working condition no doubt affects the judgment of the journalists in the discharge of their duties. Most journalists especially from the private (independent) media organizations are not paid salaries at all, not to talk of being paid well. Some that are employed have no retirement benefits, as their counterparts in the other sectors. Cole (1995). This kind of engagement has bred poverty in the entire system. A hungry man they say is an angry man. Journalists, who fall under this unfortunate category, helplessly and easily fall prey to unethical practices just to survive. Quackery has also crept into journalism practice in the country.
Though not peculiar with journalism, but for the fact that the regulatory bodies of the media tend to be weak or are not living up to expectation, quacks capitalize on this weakness to infiltrate the rank and file of journalism practitioners to commit all sorts of crimes which in most cases are blamed on journalists. The major problem here is that since the regulatory bodies, such as the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Nigerian Press Council have not been able to effectively regulate journalism practice in the country, mostly as it concerns mode of employment for journalists and standards to be adhered to by private publishers, ethics of journalism practice now becomes difficult.
What you now have are bunch of people who parade themselves as journalists when they are really not and of course lawlessness and unethical practice now become the order of the day. Anyakora & Potiskum (1996). Other factors include uncooperative attitude of people placed in authorities to volunteer information for journalists when sought. This has created room for speculations, when the required information are not given to journalists. Again, the deliberate attempt by government and its agents to exclude the private sector journalists from their functions, result to journalists reporting government activities as outsiders, thereby speculating or at times sensationalizing virtually everything concerning government.
The deliberate effort of government at all levels to impoverish journalists through unfavourable policies that are inimical to journalism practice in the country, for example the media is constitutionally regarded as the Fourth Estate of The Realm, which makes it the fourth arm of government, but while the other three arms, the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary enjoy budgetary provisions, the press is allowed to wallow in poverty. The flimsy reason often adduced for this utter neglect is that the pen is already too powerful and therefore if the press enjoys financial support, it will trample on other arms of government. Toure (1996). 2. 3Role of the Nigerian Media In National Development National Development as has earlier been defined is the process of growth in all facets of human endeavors within a national boundary over a given period.
The role of the Nigerian media in national development like any other media globally revolves around its primary functions of informing, educating and entertaining the populace or better still mass audience. The media role in national development comes through development communication, which centres on persuading target audience in adopting the right attitude towards actualizing development plan in the country. In doing that, the development media theory as espoused by Combs and Shaw (1972) that drives the agenda setting theory comes to play. This states that the media tell us not what to think, but what to think about. What this means is that the importance the media place on an issue, determines the level of attention the audience give such issue.
The essence of this agenda setting theory is that though the media may not completely change ones point of view, on a particular issue, but it tends to change his perception of what is good. The power of the media in influencing issues is seen as importance instrument in national developmental policies. The role of Nigerian media in national development cannot be over emphasized. Right from 1914 when the Northern and Southern protectorates were amalgamated by the colonial government, the media have been playing a pivotal role in national development in Nigeria. Since the primary role of the media is to inform, educate and entertain, they also use these functions to persuade the people on the need to embark on certain processes that can engender national development.
In addition to these basic functions of the media, also comes their persuasive role. This persuasive role enables the media to influence the society towards a particular direction. And in most cases the people are driven towards contributing to national development. According to Nwabueze (2003), the media also chart a course for the public in line with the agenda setting theory, thereby creating in the minds of the people issues that should be viewed as priority issues, including development programmes and policies. Example of such roles are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) and Vision 20; 2020 in line with United Nations, which has been domesticated by countries, including Nigeria.
The Nigerian media have been in the fore-front of sensitization of the people against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. To the credit of the media in the country, the rate of spread of HIV/AIDS has reduced drastically. The media in Nigeria have tried to contain the negative impact of the Boko Haram insurgence as it borders on the country’s national image. This is evident on the way foreign media perceive and report the Boko Haram insurgence saga. The idea is to play down on the effect of the security challenge and promote national development. On the political sphere, the recent Nigeria Governor’s Forum election that almost metamorphosed into a national crisis has been contained by the role of the media.
That is, the Nigerian media have been careful in reporting the controversial election in order not to heat up the polity. In short, it is the diplomatic way the media handled the situation through their reportage that sustained the prevailing peace in the country. The latest is the People’s Democratic Party split. Being mindful of the sensitive nature of the matter, the media have been careful on reporting it. The ultimate goal is to ensure that national development is not disrupted. 2. 4Origin of Brown Envelope In Nigerian Journalism Practice Brown envelope which can be defined as gratification given to a journalist to obtain favourable report.
The brown is said to have started in Nigeria during the Second Republic (1979-1983) when journalists started demanding brown envelope as a condition for conducting interview Uko (2004). The ignoble act was allegedly started by government press who claimed that their salaries were low. This soon spread to the entire journalism practice and has now become the rule. A survey conducted by LICADHO (2008) showed that journalists tried to justify the brown envelope act and went ahead to argue that it does not affect their professional judgment (report). Ukpabi (2001) in his study on the same issue revealed that only 30 % of Nigerian journalists believe that bribe no matter the type should not be taken. In other words, brown envelope syndrome was generally accepted and embraced by majority of journalists in Nigeria since then.
A random survey on brown envelope syndrome in the world shows that the practice is in vogue in virtually every part of Africa and Asia, except South Africa. Brown is however said to be forbidden in the United States of America, where journalists would not even allow a news source to buy them a cup of coffee. 2. 5Effect Of Brown Envelope On Journalism Practice In Nigeria Brown envelope syndrome has really dealt a terrible blow on the integrity of journalists in Nigeria to the extent that journalists now relegate objectivity in reporting to the background and instead play up bias and subjectivity in their news stories. This has paved way for mediocrity in the entire process. Brown envelope forces journalists to abandon the ethical practice for selfish interests.
The result is that Nigerian journalists can no longer compete favourably with their counterparts in the western countries or even in South Africa where Brown envelope has no place in their journalism practice. Brown envelope syndrome has therefore dwarfed Nigerian journalists from international competition. The independence of the media or freedom of the press has suffered a great setback as a result of brown envelope. It has become difficult or even impossible to separate the journalists from news sources because of the brown envelope attachment. The situation has become so bad that journalists now relegate their function of informing, educating and entertaining the public to promoting public relations goals. The brown envelope syndrome has brought about neglect in news from the rural communities.
It is assumed that every news story attracts brown envelope and most well – to- do news sources that can afford brown envelope live in urban cities, therefore the journalists do not have any business reporting happenings in the rural areas, since the sources of such news are basically poor. The implication is that the rural communities remain unreported in the present dispensation. Another effect of brown envelope is that journalists in Nigeria have shunned investigative news stories and concentrated more on events and press briefings where brown envelopes are guaranteed. This of course has almost eroded the essence of the media as the watchdog of the society.