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My Fear For Journalism In Nigeria

July 16, 2013

By Iyobosa Uwugiaren

Let nobody read petty, wicked and different meaning to this write-up; I am only expressing my concern about my profession – journalism — the way it should be practised, what I consider to be the shortcomings in the current trend, and the urgent need for us to retrace our steps so that we can continue to earn the respect and trust of our audience. Finish! So, if you think otherwise, you are on your own.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I am in a position to make this observation, having spent close to 20 years in journalism practice with the necessary professional academic qualifications: Slowly but steadily, the Nigerian media are getting confused about how they should engage the government and the citizens for the purpose of deepening our democracy, or civilian government if you like. My claim is premised on the constitutional and social responsibility of the media: holding government accountable and providing credible and factual information that will enable people to take rational political and economic decisions on a daily basis.

Hold your gun first; do not shoot yet. If you are in doubt, do a content analysis of most dailies, the Arewa media and the Ngbati press, especially in the last few weeks and — I bet you — you will readily come to a conclusion, if your mind is not demented, that the media have been polarised along different political and ethic lineages or camps. This is my worry, especially as we approach a critical point in our politics, which will either make or destroy our country.

A media expert, Katrin Voltmer of the Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds (UK), had argued that democratic accountability encompasses not only political power holders but also the citizens and the media that link governments and citizens. The media expert’s argument is that the capacity and eagerness of the citizens to engage in political life, in addition to the quality of public communication, play an important part in strengthening the link between those in power and the citizenry because if citizens are ignorant about political issues, do not make an effort to have a say, despite their representatives, and do not believe in democratic values, then the viability of that democracy might be seriously at risk, even if the institutions are perfectly designed. And this connection can only be made if the media play their roles of agenda setting, gate keeping, and watchdog, hoping that they will always act in the public interest.

Just yesterday, I had a cause to complain loudly to some of my professional colleagues – while shaming the devil in a popular joint in Wuse 2, Abuja — that we (journalists) are now playing politics rather than practising journalism. And true, some of them who are professionally sound agreed, stressing that the evidence is loudly noticeable in most dailies and electronic media. Check it out: from the quality of news reports, it appears the interaction between my colleagues and politicians is increasingly pigeonholed by a high degree of teamwork or collaboration. This shouldn’t be. Critical issues that are of public interest — corruption in public places, health, good environment, social welfare, security and others that will deepen our understanding of socio-political issues — are gradually being suppressed while petty political issues are being celebrated and promoted to undeserved level for mere political and economic interests. Read the rest of the column at Leadership.ng.

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