An Investigation Of Public Perception On The Role Of Mass Media In Reportage Of The Hate Speech Bill In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

An Investigation Of Public Perception On The Role Of Mass Media In Reportage Of The Hate Speech Bill In Nigeria


Abstract


The main objective of the study is to investigate the public perception on the role of mass media in reportage of the hate speech bill in Nigeria and the specific objectives were; to find out if Nigerians were exposed to the reports of mass media on hate speech bill, to ascertain how Nigerians perceived mass media coverage of hate speech bill, to find out if the mass media played a significant role to aid the understanding of the bill. The study used a survey research design and data was collected from 400 respondents randomly selected from Enugu state which was used to represent the entire population. The findings of the study revealed that the population recognize the role of mass media in the reporting of hate speech bill. The findings of the study also revealed that generally the reports of the speech bill were accessible to the population. The findings of the study also showed that this reports created an awareness and educated the masses on the hate speech bill.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background of Study

The importance of the mass media in a modern democracy has been a subject of discussion among participants in the political space of every democratic society, especially Nigeria as a growing democracy. The complex and diverse nature of the 21st century global society further accentuate audience reliance on the mass media for information about the all-important political sector of every democratic society, which dictates the pace in other sectors of the society. The importance of the media could be understood firstly in their pervasiveness, which makes people learn almost everything about the world through the media, especially events and issues beyond their immediate contact; their (media) ability to disseminate information and engender citizens’ political involvement in modern democracy; and their ability to influence the populace on (political) ideologies (Vivian, 2006).

A vital area of manifestation of media importance based on dependence on them by actors or participants in politics is the performance of the surveillance role. This role refers to the journalistic function of the mass media involving timely monitoring and reporting of political events in the society. The fact that the society ascribes this role to the mass media has earned the institution the title of “the fourth estate or unofficial fourth branch of government designed to observe and report the executive, legislative and judicial branches” (Rodman, 2006 p. 25). Based on the principles of freedom and participation, which underscore democracy, this status suggests that the mass media are important not only as vital information sources but also for interpretation, linkage, entrenchment of values, affiliation and expression (Dominick, 2011) in the political space. News reporting (otherwise termed surveillance) is the basic media function for society in a democracy due to the importance of information in political opinions, attitudes and behaviour. Other functions of the media derive from the surveillance function. According to Dominick (2011), the importance of this role lies in the facts that news travels fast in the mass media and that we live in a media-saturated world such that much of what people consider as reality are learnt through the media. Thus, news is a basic media product in political commun0ication, the importance of which cannot be over-emphasised.
Burton (2010) describes political communication as a field involved in the study of the dynamic interaction among political actors, the media and the audience. Its major focus is the relationship between the media and political actors on the one hand, and media and society on the other. Activities of political actors are described by Dominick (2011, p. 25) as “horserace” and these usually come under the constant monitor of the media for reporting. A basic component of political events and activities, which forms an important source of political news, is speech. Citing Ayodele and Adeniyi (1999), Adedina (2010) describes speech as “the expression of ideas and thoughts my means of articulate vocal sound” (p. 351). It should be noted that speech is an innate expressive human communication skill. It is a primary human language skill learnt and practiced before writing – the other expressive skill. The innate nature of speech and its features such as spontaneity, credible contribution to issues, avenue for detailed clarification and the capability of generating appropriate feedback (Adedina, 2010) perhaps underscore media attention on it in political news reporting. Reporters often want to hear politicians speak about issues and events in the society and such political expressions attract reportage and generate reactions. Thus, reporters give considerable attention to political speech – “ideas and facts that back up the ideas about the meaning and correct course of government” (Rodman, 2006 p. 499). The attention that political speech generates in media reportage of issues has attracted attention to it to the extent of censorship. A growing area of concern relating to regulation of political expression in Nigeria, which is generating debates on censorship, is hate speech.

There has been no generally accepted definition of hate speech. However, scholars have described it using certain legal ingredients that account for such an expression. It refers to verbal expression of hatred directed to an individual or group resulting in certain consequences based on social interaction (Foxman & Wolf, 2013). Such expression of hatred could be harmful to individuals’ or groups’ sexual orientation, gender, disability, religious belief, race or ethnicity, health status, age limitations, language and political affiliation (Hernandez, 2011). Hate speech is a sociological and legal construct that is gaining attention in Nigerian politics. It is sociological because of its effect on individual interactions and group dynamics in the society. It is legal because its ingredients are embedded in law and its prohibition hinged on human rights.

The Independent National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill a.k.a. “Hate Speech Bill” (“the Bill”) remains one of the most controversial Bills to be passed by the Legislative arm of government in Nigeria it has received a lot of criticism and agitations by various groups and stakeholders clamouring for a review of the capital punishments prescribed in the Bill or for the discountenance of the Bill in its entirety. Many perceive the Bill as an attempt by the government to place limitations on the freedom of expression of its citizens, a fundamental human right enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria, while some others see it as a Bill which not only goes against morality but is an offshoot of the antics of some political leaders who desire to further their personalised objectives.
The stated objective of the Bill is to promote national cohesion and integration by outlawing unfair discrimination, hate speeches and the establishment of an Independent National Commission for the prohibition of hate speeches and connected matters. The Bill specifically prohibits the commission of ethnic discrimination, hate speech, harassment on the basis of ethnicity, ethnic or racial contempt and discrimination by way of victimization by individuals or corporate bodies. The Federal High Court is the court empowered with exclusive jurisdiction to try all offences of such nature under the Bill.


1.2 Statement of Problem

Generally, the propagation of expressions of hatred could denigrate individuals and groups targeted in such expressions. Such denigration could have negative consequences on the victims on the ground of socio-political relations and affiliations. According to Hernandez (2011), “when hate speech is permitted to be propagated, it encourages a social climate in which particular groups are denigrated and their discriminatory treatment is accepted as normal” (p. 808). Nielsen (2017) observes various negative consequences of hate speech on victims such as cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Also, the propagation of political hate speech through news reportage could result into infringement on certain rights of the victims such as the right to be voted for, which determines political attainment. Also, it has the potential to infringe on racial, gender and religious equality among political actors. Once an individual or group has been portrayed in a manner that promotes discrimination, such a victim may be avoided by members of the public and this could lower the victim’s chances to political patronage. Considering that politics is a game of number, lowering a person’s or group’s patronage through media reportage of discriminatory expressions could have negative consequences on electoral victory. Hate speech promotes unhealthy competition among political actors, which makes them not to play the game according to the ethical rules. Nigeria has witnessed series of assassinations of politicians, public unrest, hooliganism, ethnic bigotry, to mention a few, which are possibly linkable to campaign of hatred among political actors. Such campaign of calumny propagated through media reportage further promotes diversity in a multi-ethnic society such as Nigeria. In the long run, hate speech causes disunity in the political community. In a society where hate speech is not properly restricted and its propagation through the media not adequately regulated, the horserace nature of politics is taken beyond the struggles for power for the purpose of public service. By promoting discrimination, inequality and creating a culture of discord among political actors in the society, “hate speech attacks the very basis of democratic systems” (Hernandez, 2011 p. 811). The introduction of the hate speech bill in the current political climate and the outcry after the news about the bill on hate speech went main stream. The understanding of the bill was staggering among the population and added to that most people were not aware of the bill which would critical to their daily live and free speech. This study therefore seeks to investigate the role of mass media in reportage of hate speech bill in Nigeria.


1.3 Objectives of Study

Every research, be it scientific or non-scientific, qualitative or quantitative has objectives that guides the study. The research objective specifies the obligation of the research.

The objectives of this study were as follows:

  1. To find out if Nigerians were exposed to the reports of mass media on hate speech bill.
  2. To ascertain how Nigerians perceived mass media coverage of hate speech bill.
  3. To find out if the mass media played a significant role to aid the understanding of the bill.

1.4 Research Questions

As a result of the research problems stated earlier on, this study examined the following questions:

  1. Does mass media play a role in the reporting the hate speech bill?
  2. How accessible are mass media reports on hate speech bill available to the masses?
  3. Do you think mass media created awareness on the hate speech bill?

1.5 Significance of Study

This study would help the mass media in strategizing on how best to report or cover the activities hate speech and all bills in general in Nigeria.

The outcome of this study would provide a valid statistic that scholars, policy makers and government can rely on in making certain conclusions. It would serve as a literature review for future researchers.

So far, there were limited literatures on hate speech bill, even when there were, they were insufficient and most times not accessible.

The study would serve as a very important resource material to the various institutions of learning (Universities, Polytechnics, Colleges, Monotechnics, etc), in the area of media reportage.

This study would also help to bring to the understanding of Nigerians on hate speech bill.

More so, it would enable government and other development agencies to effectively access the opinion of the public on the study area.


1.6 Scope / Limitation of the Study

This study dealt on how the public perceived the responsibility of mass media in covering Foreign Development Organizations efforts in the attainment of the health-related MDGs in Nigeria. For the sake of proximity, time and finance, this study was narrowed down to Enugu metropolis.

Because of the factors of finance, time and material constraints, this study was restricted to the above stated areas.

However, this study shall serve as a springboard for further studies in this regard.


1.7 Definition of Terms

In an effect to prevent ambiguity and create a frame of reference between the researcher and the audience, it was appropriate to give the operational definitions of the following terms:

Bill:

A draft of a proposed law presented to parliament for discussion.

Media:

The main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the internet) regarded collectively

Hate Speech:

Abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Perception:

The way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted.


1.8 Organisation of the Study

This study is organized into five chapters. Chapter one included the background of the study, research problem, research objectives and questions as well as limitation of the study. Chapter two contains the literature review. Chapter three includes the methodology and study area. Chapter Four contains the results and discussion of key findings of the study. Chapter Five finally looks at the summary, conclusions, and recommendations based on the findings.


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Summary of Findings

The mass media as argued by scholars are important ally in any public situation. It serves the role of being a source of valuable information as well as an advocate for appropriate presentation of facts and reports. Thus, brings to the notice of the public attempts made by the government on legislations and other policies. While investigating the perception of the public on hate speech bill, the researcher raised three research questions and all were accepted positive. The means that the public admits that mass media plays a role in the reportage of hate speech bill in Nigeria. Also, that the reports made by mass media are made accessible through the various mass media channels. And that mass media created an awareness which educated the public about the hate speech bill.


5.2 Conclusion

In conclusion, the entire study observed that mass media have given adequate coverage and aided the understanding of the hate speech bill.

The mass media as revealed in this study are effective channels to promote an awareness of the masses concerning key national issues and inform and educate the public on these issue through effective reportage.


5.3 Recommendations

A socially responsible journalistic practice that places conscious professional mandate on fact checking and obligation on protecting the social, cultural and political fabrics of the Nigerian society should be embraced in political news reporting. The adoption of, and strict compliance with the principles of this theory at individual practitioner and organisational levels would contribute to healthy competition among political actors. It would also prevent government undue interference in media operations in terms of censorship of (hate speech) publications, which may extend to other areas of crucial importance to the performance of media surveillance. It will make media practice in Nigeria compatible with and sensitive to the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual nature of the Nigerian society. The Nigerian government needs to take the campaign against hate speech to the next level asides just legislation: more public hearings, conferences and seminars need to be organised to engender stakeholders’ participation; and administrative measures need to be put in place at different levels of government to combat the spread of hatred and discrimination not only through political speech but also all communicative activities in the field of politics. There is a need for media literacy as a measure to stem the tide of hate speech in Nigerian politics. Educating the public on the illegality of hate speech in a culturally and politically sensitive Nigerian society is required for stakeholders in politics to be cautious of the use of expressive activities in their quest for political power. Above all, journalists should check and cross-check news information available at their disposal for factuality, quality, decency and other ethical requirements before disseminating them to the public in form of news.

The recommendation after this study on an investigation of public perception on the role of mass media in reportage of hate speech bill in Nigeria that more works needs to be done on the subject matter so as to substantiate the reports of this study. Also, government should partner the mass media more in the education and awareness of key national and indeed all national issues. Finally, government should also empower the media to be more independent and efficient in the reportage of issues in Nigeria.


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Frequently Asked Questions


What is the role of mass media in public opinion?

The mass media is one of the most influential sources of providing news to members of the public. It also has a powerful impact on public perceptions of specific issues, for example sex offenders (Brayford & Deering, 2012).

How does mass media influence public perception of crime and crime?

The public’s perception of victims, criminals, deviants, and law enforcement officials is largely determined by their portrayal in the mass media (Dowler, 2004).

What is the impact of media influence on public perceptions?

It also has a powerful impact on public perceptions of specific issues, for example sex offenders (Brayford & Deering, 2012). In order for a story to enter any form of the mass media, it needs to meet certain ‘newsworthy’ criteria to help media companies entice greater audiences, thus increasing overall profit (Galtung & Ruge, 1965).

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Mass Media as a tool of investigation in the 21st Century. Mass media in the 21st century has given individuals great access to the world around them. It has significantly minimized the distance between the people scattered all around the globe. Through Mass Media interaction between Police and Public is also facilitated and the smoke

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