The press or the media is important to the continuous existence and harmonious co-existence of the society. That is why section 39(1) and (2) of the 1999 provides for the right to freedom of expression and the press.
However, it is important to state that, the 1999 constitution is not has explicit as section 21 of the 1979 constitution which invests the press with the task of ensuring that people’s right are not trampled upon, “the press, radio and television and other agencies of mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objective and directive principles of state policy and uphold the responsibility and accountability of government to the people”.
The International Press Institute of which Nigeria is a member encapsulates the role of press in nation building; the press does all it can do to ensure that it writes only the truth, without distortion or without suppression.
It must defend the freedom to collect and publish the truth and right to fair comment. It must use only fair method to gather news; it must correct inaccuracies, protect its sources and suppress its own personal opinion in reporting facts, it must also reveal its identity before using radical and religious items, avoid what can cause hatred, it must not publish nothing about private lives unless in the public interest. It should not accept money from an advertiser.
It must not disguise advertisement as editorial. It should respect confidences and embargoes. It should take care not to glorify war, crime, adultery, cruelty and communal clashes with care and restraints.
The press therefore is the people’s parliament, a gatekeeper and the watchdog of the society, it’s duty therefore is to ensure a just and egalitarian society in which no section, tribe or religion is promoted at the expense of another, it is the duty of the press to check, analyse, interpret and ferret out the advantages and otherwise of news items, thereby contributing effectively to the building of a strong and virile society, where bitterness, misgiving and rancour will not strive.
But the question is, are these principles and precepts being followed in Nigeria’s media terrain?
It’s important to start first in answering this question to state that, the Nigerian media played a historic role in the fight against continued military rule and subsequently, the installation of democratic order in Nigeria.
As the fourth estate of the realm and the watchdog of the society, the role of the media in any social formation cannot be downplayed. However, with the coming of the civilian rule, the media seem to have gone to sleep. Hence, the media presently in the country is in a deep slumber.
Many of the editors and senior reporters are desperate to make it big time, therefore, they go cap in hand to beg for largesse of various sorts from the people they are supposed to watch, check, teach and even guide. They cannot therefore, play the all-important watchdog role that is really expected of them.
It is really appalling to note that many senior editors and reporters are so desperate to become rich that they have compromised their professional callings. Today, their motto is, “the survival of the fittest” in the unhealthy rat race to get-rich quick, it is only the fittest of the fittest that survives the murky terrain of media “politicks”. It is now “brown envelop for pocket, packaging for paper”.
That is why it is difficult for the media in Nigeria to be as vibrant, articulate and dynamic as it was during the 12 crisis. Today in the country many top editors and reporters are always looking for where their bread can be buttered.
They are mostly preoccupied with how they can live in highbrow areas such as Victoria Garden City (VGC), Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Maitama, Asokoro and even have property in choice places abroad as well as fat on and off-shore bank accounts.
They are contractors and consultants to various tiers of government. They support any government in power, even if these government are doing the wrong things once, it will be translate to pecuniary gains to them. It is for this reason that, a lot of nonsense and abominations abounds in our newsrooms, advertorials now comes out as genuine news report, the media which ought to be an agenda-setting fora or mechanism, is now being turned into a public relations outfit for those who pays the piper.
But it was Professor Wole Soyinka who said, the man dies in all that keep silent in the face of tyranny. The Nigerian media has since been pocketed. And, Patrice Lumumba remarked confidently that, neither brutal assaults nor cruel mistreatments have ever led me to beg for mercy, rather, I will hold my head high in an unshakable resolve.
This ought to be the motto of the Nigeria, alas, where is the conscience of the media that ought to be nurtured by the truth? Where is the right of the people to know? Where is the freedom of the Nigerian media that ought to be anchored on liberty? Definitely something is wrong somewhere.
The role of media as the pathfinder, role model and conscience of the nation, have been compromised by rapacious and acquisitive tendencies of media hawks in Nigerian journalism. And, this is a disturbing trend.
This is because, when media which ought to dictate to the society the direction it should go, its being led by the nose, and told what to do, how to do it, when and why, then, there is a major problem.
No doubt, the media is now a willing tool in the hand of some top editors and reporters to blackmail people for money, kill authentic stories, fight with junior colleagues over money, give lucrative postings to those that give them returns, use their positions to solicit for political appointments, and they do all these and much more, with impunity, not minding whose ox is gored.
They have mortgage their integrity and credibility as well as soil the good name of the pen-profession. They have since sold their birthright for a mess of porridge; they have turned newsrooms to hatchet places, where blackmails, threats and insinuations are dished all in exchange for cash. The most annoying aspect is that there is nobody to call them to order, because; at different levels they are all neck-deep in one deal or the other.
Even the NUJ has now become a personality cult for training contractor-journalists, going on dubious media trips and publishing thrash for cash. Or what has a journalist got to do with road construction, estate building or supplies to various government ministries. It is for this reason that, journalists are no longer respected and given their place of pride in the scheme of things in the country.
There is a general feeling that all journalists are the same, hungry people always looking for some small coins to keep body and soul together. Many of these top editors and reporters are so shameless, lacking in any kind of self-worth, that, they have the temerity to even flaunt their ill-gotten wealth. It is high time a national summit on the pen-profession is organized.
There should be some internal self-cleansing and personal self examination, and the powerful profession given a-clean-bill-of-health and a-new-lease-of-life. Why will organizations, government agencies, corporate bodies etc, organize media events and at the end dish out brown envelope. What is this kind of act called? Perhaps, the EFCC should tell whether that is corruption, gratification and inducement or not?
We cannot allow for any further denigration of the pen-profession, something very drastic urgently needs to be done to stop this festering ugly development, before it ultimately becomes a full-brown cancer that cannot be treated. These groups of bread and butter journalists have given a bad name to the noble pen-profession.
Always, writing advertorials as features, making very skewed analysis and not looking at the many-sidedness of issues, they are commission writers. This is a great disservice to journalism and the people of Nigeria. This trend must change now; the media must purge itself of these misfits, for it to be relevant to the society.
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