PERHAPS, there is this temptation to see a journalist as a saint – morally upright, honest, not corrupt, detribalized and objective in analysis and presentations.
This perception derives from the role the constitution imposes on media in society – the role of a watchdog. Since a watchdog is expected to be very careful, vigilant, fair and fearless, it is only natural for the journalist to be seen as conscience of humanity.
The question is how clean and honest is the Nigerian journalist, how fair is he in his analysis and presentation, is he truly objective in his assessment of political events. These questions have become necessary because there comes a time in the life of a man for self re-examination.
If you are priviledged to watch journalists at very close range, you will be shocked to discover that some of them are the direct opposite of the role the constitution has carved out for them. Some are mean, corrupt and even dirtier than politicians we criticize. Some of us are not just mere extensions of political parties but also agents of politicians whose activities, good or bad,  we must always project positively.
Urged on by the crumbs from the politicians’ tables these journalists are unable to have independent assessment of affairs affecting the nation. They only hold and propagate the views as advanced by their masters.
Some of our reporters are not even interested in what news is all about as they are always hustling to cover events that will put money in their pockets. If stories are not paid for they can’t even be written let alone used and even when the story has been paid for you will be surprised that you cannot find it to read in the papers. You will really feel ashamed to see journalists fighting and exchanging blows after a press – conference, over money, bottles of beer and food. The slogan is simply “ROJA”
Now, what kind of watchdog are these set of people who lack integrity and character, who do not see anything wrong in projecting a thief and a thug.
Sometime ago I bumped into an office where I met some journalists brainstorming over who to be given award. I saw three names and I asked them whether they were considering those names for award I told them I knew those persons very well and that giving them award will adversely affect the credibility of the media. They told me they were not interested, that what they simply needed was money and it doesn’t matter who pays for the awards.
The Best Performing Local Government Chairman,” “Best Governor,” Most Effective Commissioner Best lawmaker” are some of the awards given out by some media practitioners in exchange of cash.
At this juncture, it is imperative to gauge the media’s capacity for engagement with promoting democratic values. This is underscored by the fact that effective and confident reporting of issues of governance helps deepen democracy.
Outside the individual journalist and his waywardness, what kind of environment do we expect to have a flourishing media with capacity to check misgovernance? Editorial independent is of great essence.
Independence guarantees institutional, organizational and individual capacity to professionally investigate and report democratic issues.
The Nigerian legal and policy environment is generally tolerant except for some inhibitions.
Among the enabling factors include constitutional guarantee on the role of the media; the existence of a Freedom of Information ACT (FOI Act); media professional Code of Ethics and an active civil society sector. In a comparison of levels of editorial independence in public and private media, research has shown that the private press has higher level of editorial independence than the government media particularly the government dominated broadcast sector. The most inhibitions are not institutional but are linked to actions of officials and media owners leading to self censorship and ethical violations. Of concern is editorial independence that is hampered by self regulation, intolerant officials, corruption (secrecy) and institutional resistance. Others are technical and institutional weaknesses, cumbersome judiciary and commercialization of news and views, susceptibility of media practitioners to societal stereotypes, cleavages and mindset.
The news media play a critical role in a democratic society. If the press pursues its role with passion, it is bound to annoy those in power from time to time, and there is often tension between the press and the politicians whom it covers. We, the vast viewing and reading public, are often caught in the middle, sometimes agreeing with the press and other times siding with our elected officials.
The political power of the press is a subject on many people’ minds.
The press is simultaneously blamed and praised for many aspects of our political life. On the one hand, the press is accused of a wide array of offenses: endangering national security, over simplifying important issue of public policy, focusing too much on the negative and not enough on the achievements of government, and demonstrating some sort of political bias. On the other hand, the same politicians and pundits who criticize the media attempt to influence and control it, trying to get their messages out to the public.
In many ways, our political system depends on the media, just as the media depends on politics. In this course, let us explore many aspects of the relationship between the press and the political system. Let us examine the history of the media in Nigerian politics, the regulation of the media by the government, the ways in which the press covers politics, the influences the media have on both public and elected officials, and the ways the media have shaped political campaigns. Among the questions we will ask are: how broadly does the press actually influence the electoral process? Do the news media set national policy by ignoring or highlighting certain issues? Do they pursue agendas of their own?
Politicians believe that the time, money and energy they devote to press relations will pay off in the form of reelection or support for their policy proposals. This belief was not born in a vacuum – there is plenty of evidence that such efforts pay off, as we will see in this course.
The efforts of elected officials to control the media’s message are not without consequences, of course since journalists see themselves as watchdogs of democracy; it follows that they would react with suspicion to such attempts.