A university teacher, Nkereuwem Udoakah, says Nigerian politicians and government were deliberately working hard to render journalism practice ineffective.
There seems to be a game plan to rubbish the profession, he said.
The journalists themselves, according to Mr. Udoakah, have become willing collaborators with those who are bent on destroying journalism practice in the country.
Mr. Udoakah, a professor of political communication and media studies at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, said that Nigerian journalism has long lost the potency which it was known for during the colonial era and the struggle for independence.
“There seems to be a conspiracy between mass media proprietors and the political class in Nigeria to eclipse the power of journalism and make economic and political power hold sway in our democratic dispensation,” Mr. Udoakah said on Thursday while delivering the 54th inaugural lecture of the university.
Mr. Udoakah’s lecture, titled “the Political Economy of Nigerian Journalism”, examined the relationship between the nation’s political economy and journalism practice in the country.
The lecturer said media proprietors in the country can hardly be said to be apolitical businessmen.
“They (media proprietors) belong to a group of business buccaneers with incorrigible editorial meddling instinct,” he said, adding that the reporters working for them weren’t paid a good salary and were most times owed for several months.
He noted that the situation has degenerated to the extent where reporters have become mere seekers of the brown envelope, the euphemism for a bribe. This has also discouraged investigative journalism from thriving, he said.
“Looking at the private sector media, some of those media owners are politicians themselves or have one link or another with politicians and government…. Moreover, if they cannot or are unwilling to pay salaries for months, how would investigative journalism be financed and who are those to be investigated?
“The result is that much of what is going to be reported has to do with government and its officials.
“This makes looking for news inexpensive as reporters are just sent to where government officials congregate and they report what they say. So, government stories occupy more than fifty percent of the ‘news hole’ of the print or electronic media. The next is about politicians and their parties. These, too, are not expensive to get.”
The lecturer said since reporters’ welfare wasn’t a priority to their employers, many journalists are forced to live on politicians and were therefore not committed to the profession.
“The result is that they do what they can to protect their benefactors and raise issues about those they cannot benefit from.
“Put differently, journalists are now after what they can get from covering an event. If no money is likely to get into their pocket, then no coverage. But in order to not to go without something, they may twist the story to embarrass, scandalize or blackmail, thus making the source to look for them for settlement.
“The consequence is that today, persons without a job but who knows how to write become journalists. They write without money for any medium that wants their contribution and use that relationship with the media to make their money anyhow.”
Mr. Udoakah said the neglect of the state-owned media establishments by the government was part of “a grand conspiracy to deal a blow on journalism”.
Mr. Udoakah, in addition, described as “worrying phenomenon”, a situation where journalists abandon their traditional job of story-writing and go around canvassing for advertisement because of the commission they could get from it.
“Although they may be making some money, this is professionally unethical and humiliating,” he said.
“It brings them to their knees before those they are supposed to watch and report their activities in the public interest. The result is that newsworthy events which should be routinely brought to public attention are often suppressed.”
The event, which had the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Enefiok Essien, and other dignitaries in attendance, witnessed the unveiling of the Communications Arts department’s website donated by PREMIUM TIMES.
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