The Role Of The Mass Media In Promoting Anti-Corruption Campaigns

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

The Role Of The Mass Media In Promoting Anti-Corruption Campaigns


Abstract


The study examines the role of mass media in promoting anti corruption campaigns in Nigeria as well as the problems encountered in the process of performing this role. The study revealed that corruption has been and continues to be a destructive element in the governance of Nigeria and perception of the country in the comity of nations. The study showed that poverty, threat to life, undue interference by government, harassment, injury and lack of laws to protect journalist are the major obstacles to media in their fight against corruption. Passage of freedom of information bill, training in investigative journalism and good remuneration are recommended for media to be effective in the fight against corruption.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Mass media provide information for people at large so that there is acceptance of an idea to create interest. Mass media have come to occupy the position of eminence in the world today as it constitutes the nexus that controls the over-all socio-economic and political Development of every society. Without the media which, according to Okunna (2000), maintain constant flow of vital information for economic growth, national development is bound to be stagnated or at best be retarded. Owolabi (2008) also corroborated this position, adding that progressive policies and decisions are made on the basis of the quality of available information at ones disposal. To policy makers, information and knowledge about the desires of the people are the basic ingredient they need to respond to the opportunities and challenges in their economic and political domain.

Media reporting on corruption can play an important role in pressurizing the government to act in the public interest. By drawing the attention to behavior that is generally perceived as acceptable and exposing such behavior as corrupt, media can raise public awareness; activate anticorruption values; and generate outside pressure from the public against corruption, (Rose-Ackerman, (1999)).The impact of media reporting on corruption can be “tangible” and “intangible”, (Stapenhurst (2000)). It is tangible when some sort of visible outcome can be attributed to a particular news story or series of stories—for instance, the launching of investigation by authorities, the scrapping of a law or policy promoting opportunities for corruption, the impeachment or forced resignation of a crooked politician, the firing of an official, the launching of judicial proceedings, the issuing of public recommendations by a watchdog body, and so on. It is intangible when checks on corruption arise from the broader social climate of enhanced political pluralism, enlivened public debate and a heightened sense of accountability among politicians, public bodies and institutions that are inevitably the by-product of a hard-hitting, independent news media. How well media can perform the role of a watchdog on corruption, however, depends on a number of factors defined by the political, economic and legal environment in which media operate: media freedom of expression, access to information, ownership, competition, credibility and outreach are some of the key factors that have been identified as affecting the quality and effectiveness of media performance on corruption (Suphachalasai, 2005),

Media can play an important public accountability role by monitoring and investigating the actions of those who are granted public trust and who may be tempted to abuse their office for private gain, (Eigen, 1999). (Stapenhurst, 2000) provides a useful list of tangible and intangible effects that aggressive and independent journalism can have on corruption. This list provides a useful tool to assess the role and effectiveness of media as an instrument of public accountability, which will be used throughout this paper. Tangible effects are those that can be readily attributed to a particular news story or series of news stories. For example, the launching of investigations by the parliament or other authorities into allegations of corruption, the censure, impeachment, or forced resignation of corrupt officers, the firing of public officers, the launching of judicial proceedings, the issuing of public recommendations by a watchdog body, the scrapping of a law or policy that creates an environment conducive or even contributing to corruption.

Media coverage of corruption might also contribute to shape public hostility towards corrupt behaviour that might result in the electoral defeat of individual politicians or of an entire government and in public pressure to reform policies and laws that otherwise create the conditions for corrupt behaviour. News stories assessing the work and exposing flaws, weaknesses and even corruption in accountability institutions, such as courts, police and anti-corruption agencies, might lead to public pressure to reform these institutions. The by-products of all these actions might be to increase the costs of corrupt behaviour among public officials; to raise the standards of public accountability; to enhance the legitimacy of watchdog bodies and their independence from vested interests within the power structure that might otherwise interfere with their work and to encourage witnesses of corruption to come forward.

Media aggressive reporting on corruption might also prompt pre-emptive responses by authorities eager to protect their reputation and the public image of their institution before any allegation is aired. More intangible and indirect effects of media reporting on corruption have to be seen in the context of the broader role that media plays in society, particularly in contexts of weak political competition as in the case of Nigeria and of many other African countries.

In these contexts, aggressive and independent journalism acts as an indirect check on the sort of corruption that would otherwise flourish in the absence of political competition. By simply informing the public and presenting a variety of points of view media can promote public debate and enhance political and economic competition. Such competition might enhance accountability, open up alternatives to dealing with corrupt networks, and create incentives for political leaders to move against corruption. It might also encourage public participation and inform the debate by taking the lead in pressing for enhanced civil liberties such as freedom of expression. By disseminating knowledge about public decisions and procedures beyond a small elite group of decision-makers, media can also play a major role in undermining a precondition to corruption, which is the “shared knowledge” among a restricted circle of beneficiaries of corruption.

Media freedom of expression is essential to investigate and report incidences of corruption in a professional, effective and ethical manner. Freedom House, which monitors the free flow of information to and from the public, measures press freedom in terms of the degree to which laws and government regulations influence news content; the degree of political influence or control over the context of the news system; the economic influences on the media exerted either by government or private entrepreneurs, and the degree of oppression of the news media, Brunetti and Weder, (2003).


1.2 Objectives of the Study

  1. Ascertain the level of prominence given to anti-corruption reportage and the activities of the law enforcement agencies by Nigerian print media
  2. Determine which of the agencies is given more coverage as a result of the print media promotion of anti-corruption campaign.
  3. To examine the extent in which Daily Trust and Thisday newspapers report corruption on related issues in Nigeria.
  4. Evaluate the effectiveness of the print’s coverage of anti-corruption issues as a means of transforming the society

1.3 Research Questions

  1. What level of prominence does the print give to the coverage of anti-corruption issues and the activities of law enforcement agencies?
  2. What is the extent in which Daily Trust and Thisday newspapers report corruption on related issues in Nigeria?
  3. How effective is the coverage of anti-corruption issues by the print media in social transformation?
  4. Which of the anti-corruption agencies is given more coverage by the print media?

1.4 Significance of the Study

This study will be immense important to find out the role of mass media in curbing out anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria, with the reference of the role played by the media and the anti-corruption agencies, Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in curbing out corrupt practices in Nigeria from the corrupt public and private officers, through informing and enlightening the general public.


1.5 Scope of the Study

This study will examine the role of mass media in promoting anti-corruption campaign, with the view on the coverage by Daily Trust and This day newspapers on the role played by Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on related issues.


1.6 Statement of the Problem

There’s much corruption in Nigeria, especially, this is disheartening when one notices that they are perpetuated by the people in government who almost are seen as sacred cows, the untouchable. But in recent time, the government has indicated interest in fight against corruption, thus setting up “Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC)”, other bodies that exist also fight corruption in public as well as in private quarters.


1.7 Definition of key Terms

Mass Media:

This refers to all those media technologies such as television, radio, internet newspaper, magazine etc. that are intended to reach a large audience by mass communication.

Coverage:

Media attention given to an event or topic by newspapers, radio, and television in their reporting.

Corruption:

This refers to the dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.

Anti-Corruption:

Designed to eradicate or prevent dishonest or fraudulent conduct, especially in a political context.

Campaign:

A series of work an organized and active way towards a particular goal, typically a political or social one.

Newspaper:

The newspaper is described as a collection of folded printed sheet of papers published periodically, usually daily or weekly for circulating news.

EFCC:

Economic and Financial Crime Commission

ICPC:

Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission


Chapter Four


Conclusion and Recommendations

The role of the media is critical in efforts against corruption. As a result, there must be careful structuring of the relationship between anti-corruption officials and, in many cases, there must also be efforts to develop or enhance the capabilities of the media to ensure that they can function effectively as recipients of information about corruption, appraise such information in an independent manner, use it meaningfully as the basis of further communications and disseminate it to the general public. In addition to independence and credibility, critical functions of the journalistic media include their ability to digest and render detailed technical materials accessible to the general population. This is essential to general awareness raising and public education, but also entails a high degree of responsibility and the exercise of discretion, since it necessarily involves editorial or “gatekeeping” exercises, in which the media must decide which information to report and which to leave out. Some of the critical issues that will enhance the role of media in curbing corruption are as follows:

  1. The autonomy of the media is essential to enable it to assess Government information critically and objectively and to ensure its reports are credible to the population as a whole. Thus, Government contacts with the media must be transparent, and they must not compromise the essential autonomy of the media, either in practice or in public perceptions. Also critical to autonomy and objectivity is the separation of media ow nership from Government or political factions or, if this is impossible, ensuring that there is a diverse media to represent a full range of political opinion. Similarly, the staffing of individual media should be multi-partisan, if possible.
  2. For the media to assess anti-corruption efforts critically and independently they must possess adequate technical, legal, economic and other expertise. In many cases, other sources, such as retained professional or academic experts, can supplement the knowledge of general media reporters. Training, awareness-raising and technical briefing of media personnel in anti-corruption efforts may also be useful. Passage of Freedom of Information Bill by the National Assembly will guarantee the right to seek for information without inhibition and to publish or broadcast news safely and effectively. The passage of this bill will give legal cover to the media’s contributions towards the anti-corruption campaign in the country.
  3. The media should be encouraged to develop and enforce adequate standards of conduct regarding their professional competence and their objectivity.
  4. Owners of media houses most especially private owners should be explicit with their interests to their editors so the latter w ould make good use of their profession to fulfill their roles in the society including that of fighting against corruption and any other practices related to it. Also they should enable their journalists to perform their duties effectively so that they would avoid any temptations of accepting gifts, envelopes, fare or any other support that would interfere with their free reporting.
  5. Media presentations should clearly distinguish between factual and fictional programmes and between news reporting, which reports fact, and analysis or editorial commentary, which comments on facts.
  6. The media should be able to reach as much of the population as possible. Where that involves use of public resources, for example to enable coverage of remote areas, there should be controls in place to ensure that the Government cannot withhold such resources to exert influence on the media. The media not only raises public awareness by disseminating information regarding the misuse of public power, but it can influence civil society to support Government anti-corruption initiatives. Moreover, journalists, editors and newspaper owners can take on an active role against corruption by facilitating public debate on the need to introduce anti-corruption policies and measures.
  7. It is essential to raise awareness on the part of the media of the causes, costs, levels, types and locations of corruption in their country, as well as to explain the on-going efforts of all stakeholders against corruption. Furthermore, journalists should be taught how to evaluate and monitor Government activities, and informed about the achievements and standards of anticorruption work in the region and at the international level. If journalists are to compare the validity of the policies of their own Government with others and to report on them in the proper perspective, such background information is essential. Internal diversity and pluralism within the media community also develops a capability whereby the media can report on corruption in their own profession.
  8. Media training should also focus on building an effective information network. That includes informing journalists about governmental and non-
  9. Governmental institutions active in the field of anti- corruption, about specific areas of responsibility, contact addresses and all other available information. If possible, representatives of those institutions should be chosen to inform journalists about their work, both the successes and the failures. Creating a continuing and interactive exchange of ideas will contribute towards building trust, and that should ultimately guarantee unbiased reporting and encourage Government institutions to ensure an open information policy. Moreover, training in investigative journalism as area of specialisation is imperative for journalist in the war against corruption.

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