THE NIGERIA PRESS AND ETHICS OF JOURNALISM PROFESSION Mass Communicati…
1.1 Background to the Study
Truth is either nailed to a bleeding cross, or it dons a variegated cloak. That is the nexus between the ‘brown envelope’ syndrome and the cancer of corruption. Siyan Oyeweso (2009).
Journalism practice wields such enormous powers and calls for the highest standards of ethics and commitment to truth. Ethics and truth in journalism have assumed global concern as scholars recognize that their basic constituents of objectivity, accuracy, fairness and balance have merely assumed mythical qualities as journalists battle to assign credibility to their news stories.
Tuchman (1978: 2) describes objectivity as `facility’ (a mechanism which allows the journalists to hide even from themselves the `constructed’ and `partial’ nature of their stories). This view seems to have garnered force as increasingly, scholars suggest that news even when professionally `selected’ is guided more by organizational needs than by professionalism. The journalist thus becomes `a walking paradox’ (Nordenstreng 1995) as one cannot fail to see that journalism is so full of contradictions that “we have to question even the most fundamental dogma of the profession – truth seeking – because the way it has been conceived and practiced in journalism serves as a deceptive filtering device preventing as much as helping the truth being discovered” (Nordenstreng 1995:117). News commercialization practise in Nigeria media industries adds to this contradiction and deception, creating a continuous dilemma for ethics and objectivity in journalism practice in Nigeria.
In the same manner, in our noble profession of journalism, when a journalist gets hooked on the ‘brown envelope’ malaise, or a media house engages in ‘cheque book journalism,’ professionalism and ethics get crucified.
While the definitions are wide, within the media, they have precise applications as defined by the Nigerian Union of Journalists’ Code of Ethics Clause 4 of the Code says: “A journalist shall not accept bribes nor shall he/she allow other inducements to influence the performance of his/her professional duties.”
The Nigerian Guild of Editors concurs in Clause 7 of its Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists where it says emphatically that, “A journalist should neither solicit nor accept bribe, gratification or patronage to suppress or publish information.” It further states that “To determine payment for publication of news is inimical to the notion of news as fair, accurate, unbiased and factual report of an event.
Terje S. Skjerdal of the Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication, Norway. In a research article titled, Research On Brown Envelope Journalism In The African Media, (African Communication Research Vol. 3, 2010) states: “The term ‘brown envelope journalism’ is applied to denote journalistic activity which involves transfer of various types of rewards from sources to the reporter” (p. 369).
He further identifies the “three characteristics” that are commonly involved in the disturbing phenomenon. One, it usually occurs at a very personal level; two, it involves a reasonable degree of confidentiality to succeed. That is, it is not usually done in the open. And three, it is an informal contract. This presupposes that there is a willing source who is ready to give ‘something’ to influence the processing of the information gathered by the reporter; and a reporter, willing or reluctant to take but who collects all the same for his/her personal use and the ‘deal’ is wrapped up in utmost confidentiality (pp. 369-370)
1.2 Statement of the Study
It is clearly stated in the ethics of journalism that journalists are not to receive any form of bribe whether white, blue, green or brown envelope which has become common phenomenon among Nigeria journalists.
Many journalists derive pleasure in collecting brown envelope which is sending a bad signal and making public loosing confidence in journalism activities.
This research will x-ray the position of the Punch newspaper as against the collection of brown envelope by its staff.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
1. To know how the ethics of journalism are against the brown envelop.
2. To study why journalists receive brown envelope.
3. To highlight the implications of brown envelope on the image and objectivity of media house.
4. To know how welfare of journalists influence brown envelope.
5. To know that the media houses are doing to curtail brown envelop.
6. To unravel why Punch newspapers opt to publicly declared acceptance of gratification by its staff.
1.4 Research Questions
1. To what extent can gift be amount to brown envelope?
2. To what extent can brown envelope affect news objectivity?
3. Can poor welfare force journalists to accept brown envelope?
4. To what extent can media owner prevent their journalists from collecting bribe?, going by the Punch’s example.
5. Is taking brown envelope a punishable offence?
6. To what extent can collection of brown envelope be eradicated among journalists?
1.5 Scope of the Study
With the selection of the Punch Newspaper as a case study, this project work has been limited because it will be difficult to contact all mass media houses in Nigeria. However, the demography of the journalists and management of the Punch Newspaper such as : age, sex, working experience, academic qualification will be considered before the distribution of questionnaires.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Work like this will benefit a lot of people; few among the beneficiaries include but not limited to undergraduates and graduates of mass communication, advertisers and public relations.
It will as well benefit the media practitioners on what is expected of them in a company. It will serve as eyes opener to the management and journalists the need to uphold the ethics of the profession in order to sanitize the profession.
In addition, this research work tries to provide satisfactory answers to some questions that are disturbing the mind of policy formulators, students and researcher.
Moreover, policy formulators will benefit from this research work because they will be able to identify the usefulness of the ethics of journalism in their day to day assignment.
1.7 Limitation of Study
Although this study has accomplished the purpose, which is set out to achieve, one of the very limitations is that the validity of the results or findings is depending on the honest of the respondents in providing the needed information.
Due to constraints of time and money, it is difficult to carry out the research extensively. This led to the limiting of the scope.
Cognizance was also taken to the fact that the academic calendar was too short and academic workload was enormous, as a result of this, no time to run around for the work.
1.8 Definition of the Terms
Press: This is a collective name for media practitioners
Ethics: It is the principle or code of conduct that governs a particular association or group.
Brown envelope: It is aterms in the media sphere which means bribe given to journalists?
Journalism: This is a profession of or act of writing, editing and dissemination of information to the wider audience.
Professionalism: It is an act or way of standardizing a particular organization profession or organizing.