Journalism in Nigeria – The Effects of Bribery on Journalism in Nigeria

 Journalism in Nigeria – The Effects of Bribery on Journalism in Nigeria


The Effects of Bribery on Journalism in Nigeria: As in the media culture the effectiveness and accountability of journalists in Nigeria depends on understanding and following professional codes of conduct/ethics. The negative effects of corruption on the polity of the media is enormous, and if nothing is done about this problem, there is every indication that the brown envelope could turn to a white envelope, meaning its will acceptance as part of the job.

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And when this becomes a norm, it will be harder to carry out investigative journalism into every issue that keeps us in poverty. This paper seeks to take a critical look at the ethical implications of brown envelop on the professional practice of journalism in Nigeria. It is the obstacle that have frustrated the efforts of the media in the fight against graft that this paper seeks to highlight, the paper made a strong case for the removal of the obstacles through good welfare packages for journalist and the passage of the freedom of information bill in order for the media to live up to its responsibility.

The Effects of Bribery on Journalism in Nigeria – Introduction

As a profession that serves the interest of the public, journalism has vast responsibilities. Everyday, journalist face challenges that test their ethical values and responsibility to truth telling. Despite professional code of ethics, journalist may violate the rules by accepting bribes while covering news or features. This, in some cases lowers the journalists’ credibility and undermines a professional career.

Corruption is dangerous to society and can be extremely devastating to media. Therefore while acknowledging the attempt by the federal government to fight corruption and economic crimes, the conference calls on all media practitioner and stake holder to adopt zero tolerance attitude to corruption in the media and indeed in the society at large. Some protagonists of African tradition have argued seriously that corruption in its present mould and character is part of our colonial heritage.

Sanni (2007:39) assert that corruption is the greatest albatross and the most virulent cog militating against good governance and national development in Nigeria. It has remained an all pervading evil; afflicting all tiers of government in agreement with this point of view Osoba (200:372) sees corruption as a form of anti-social behavior by individual and social group which confers unjust or fraudulent benefits on its perpetrators.

Journalist may use the media for their personal ends or for greater social good to serve the public. As human needs are insatiable, there are chances where some may sacrifice the public interest for their selfish motives ignoring the social responsibility. Such misbehavior damages journalists and the profession’s integrity and reputation.

Thus journalism practice involves the gathering, packing and disseminating of news to general public. Generally, in today’s society the mass media are seem as veritable instruments of information dissemination, social mobilization and control. It is one of the means through which the public is educated and sensitized about important issues affecting the lives of people. And as such our ethical value should be guided jealously to avoid the ethical pitfalls like “brown envelops” money and favour journalists collect from their source popularly known as ‘brown envelops’ can flow in two way, from source to journalists in the hope of attracting or shaping coverage and from journalist to source in the hope of getting information.

Such reporting may colour news content or brighten stories with hidden agenda.

The Effects of Bribery on Journalism in Nigeria – Statement of Problem 

Information has emerged as the most vital means for development in this age. Presently, Nigeria is suffering from lack of information from the media which is based on truth, accurate, fairness and objectivity due to the level of corruption in the country and the condition is worsening to such a point that if nothing drastic is done about it, the journalism development aspiration will die due to brown envelop.

It is against this background that this study will try to examine the above problem and possible profer appropriate solution.

Research Question

i.              What has brought about brown envelop?

ii.             Does journalist report the truth after collect this brown envelops?

iii.            Is journalism practice affected by this conduct?

The Effects of Bribery on Journalism in Nigeria – Theoretical Framework

Social responsibility theory is adopted in this study. This theory states that a person has freedom to be informed, and there is a duty for him to make sure that he is informed. It sees total press freedom advocated by libertarianism as dangerous.

It argues that though man is rational, he can be gullible at times and could abuse his freedom.

It is therefore the duty of the press to provide people with only true and accurate comprehensive account of daily news. The theory mainly emphasize ethical or local standard in the practice of journalism social responsibility theory demands that media should act responsibility by realizing that they have certain obligations to the public. This is to say, the media should reflect all shapes of opinions to enable not impede access to the media.

The Effects of Bribery on Journalism in Nigeria – Review of Related Literature

Several studies has been carried out on acceptance of reward and gratification (brown envelops) by the reporters. And there have been a lot f argument over this topic of which few we are going to talk about here.

The collecting of rewards gratification reporters has been a vital issue in news reportage.

There are a lot of arguments about this very issue of which this is against ethic in broadcasting. Ethics according to Dominik (1994; 434) are rules of conduct or principles of morality that point us towards the right or best way to act in a situation.

Despite the consistent exhortation of the ethics codes against gifts, favours, free travel and special treatment and priviledges, there is nothing inherently wrong in the journalist being benefactors understand that. The problem with favour is more a practical one than one of ethics. Taking a favour may or may not be bad but it look bad depending on what is on the mind of the person offering it and the journalist.

Some media organizations place a monetary limit on accepting these gifts; to others this practice may seem hypocritical. There are those who feel that any gift regardless of how small should not be accepted on the other hand, nothing more than more politeness may be involved. Sambe and Ikoni (2004:182) points out that many media organization forbid their journalists from receiving gifts, free tickets, care accommodation and meals by organizers of events and there are also free admission to theatre or cinema, or exhibition, show or paid events. Such rewards sometimes get journalist emotionally entangled and present conflict of interest situations.

Moreso, media institutions therefore, prefer to adequately provide financially for their journalist so that they would not be in want and be independent at all times, so that Kombol (2002:63) contributing to this issue he says. Some Nigerian journalist demand gratification for service provided in the guise of transport fare or honorarium, as a result the journalist twists facts to suit the client it must be noted that brown envelops are not the same with tips.

The collection of rewards and this gratification from source sometime make reporters to write their stories in favour of their source. Some reports reveals that some time they collect this envelops but do not want to write in favour of their source but when getting to the offices their editors edit the stories in such a way that will pleased the sources. Journalists are influence through many ways and bring pressure on him to modify the performance of the communicator. Reporter may be offered gratification, praise and rewards such gifts meanly chip away at the ethical sensitivities by explaining why they are permissible. It could also take another form of a frontal and public attack aimed at drawing sympathy from the audience and discrediting the communicators.

Contributing to this issue Akinfeleye and Okeye (2003:148) says that: Thus injunction is not for the journalist to keep. It is also a clear massage to the publisher to the who sees his medium as a weapon of access to mouth-watering contracts from government” he finally says that we do not want this type in our journalism profession.

Bittner (1989:396) adds that at time he never thought much about it but there are those who would say that personal ethics should prevent this amount of gratuity. Other would argue that each individual must determine for themselves if they can remain objective after accepting a gift, be it and even international travel.

Other journalist assert that collecting brown envelop is not good because nothing goes for nothing in the sense that the person give you the envelop sometimes attach meaning to it, if you have conscience you have to write your story in such-a way that it will suit them. Some journalists agreed that it is unethical to accept any gift of value from a news source. Some editors content that it is unethical to accept any gifts periods.

Tim Wood in Bruce and Douglas (1997:452) content that accepting gifts usually is a judgment call, for example, several organizations bring food to the office during the holiday season. It is unethical to accept this food, because it has little monetary value. Turning it down could be interpreted as an insult, the people who bring this rewards sometimes don’t expect anything in return.

Black et al,. (1995:103) pointed out that reporter should accept nothing of value from news source or other outside the profession. All these rewards and gratification should not be accepted. There are many issues which characterize the mass media; in fact, the mass media have thorny issues characterizing their content as well as their socio-political and economic relationship with the society. The acceptance of rewards and gratification have a lot of implication on new reportage because every human being that has conscience after collecting this will not want to offend his source, so he will have to write his news in such a way that this source will be pleased with him because of the bribe he has collected. Thus the reporter should have in mind that this is against his profession.

This is causing serious effect in the news reportage of  which journalism practice is based on fairness, objectivity and accuracy among others, so such issue like brown envelop should be avoided. These gifts can compromise the integrity of journalist and their employers.

These rewards seduce the reporter. These gifts are given with the intention to create a relationship where the journal will fail to support facts that would tend to hurt his benefactor. This leads to puffing, cover ups, omissions and outright manipulation of facts of the news story.

The Effects of Bribery on Journalism in Nigeria- Related Empirical

Journalist says that personal ethics should prevent this of gratuity. There is a practical example of collecting rewards and gratification given by Godwin and Ron (1994:83) which they states that “Before the gulf war in 1991, it was widely reported that Kuwait routinely offered reporters Mercedes automobiles, which may British and continental journalists were quite willing to accept also German Large discounts on automobiles and tax breaks were also offered to journalist in the name of appreciation. In some cases this gifts rail journalist in their work, while various media establishments have banned acceptance of gifts in their ethical codes.

Another empirical study is that of on Wednesday 10th November, 2010, BBC world service focus on African reports that 2 journalist and a lawyer were charged to court for demanding the sum of 500,000 dollars from top government officials in Uganda in order to seize investigating into the alleged corruption scandal in his public office. This has damage the reputation of the journalist and the entire media organization.

The Effects of Bribery on Journalism in Nigeria – Conclusion/ Recommendations

Conclusively, this study identifies multifarious practices that are affecting news reportage, but I know the country could still develop and sustain this through coherent tacklements.

Professionals concerned with the news industry should standardize policy that will also help the industry to grow.

Corruption is multidimensional and needs to be fought on different fronts simultaneously. Since the causes and process of corruption vary, the resulting difference needs to be taken into account in the design of anti-corruption strategies.

To counter the temptations of gifts, established and well capitalized media establishment should pay full expense and provide for extra expenses for their reporters.

Reporter should accept nothing of value from news sources or others outside the profession. That is all these favours should not be accepted.

Reporters must avoid gifts and favours that turns out to be bribe, such gestures sometimes compromise the integrity of the journalist and the institution he represent.

The Nigerian mass media being the watchdog of the nation should be effective and honest in reporting events in the country.

Media proprietors should live up to their contractual regular salaries as well as the provision of appropriate working environment.

Reporters should avoid gifts that turn out to be bribe; also journalist should neither solicit nor accept, payment to suppress or publishes information. Because 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.

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