Societal Impact Of Corruption In The Journalism Practices

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

Societal Impact Of Corruption In The Journalism Practices


This study examined the effects of citizen journalism on the practice of journalism in Nigeria, using the issue of corruption as a case study. Corruption poses a threat to the image of journalism profession and the ability of media practitioners to perform their duties objectively. The study is anchored on Habermas’s theory of the public sphere. It further took a contemporary look at Dennis McQuail’s democratic participant media theory and some citizen journalism scholarship. The study adopted the questionnaire and interview method of primary data collection in which 35 journalists in Nigeria were surveyed through email and phone calls respectively. Data collected were presented and analysed using tables, charts and percentages for easy interpretation. The study found among other things that citizen journalism impacts positively on the daily routine of journalists in Nigeria with a total of 22 (67%) out of 33 valid responses gathered. The findings further revealed that citizen journalism is curbing the unethical practice of corruption in Nigeria with a total of 25(75%) responses. Most journalists surveyed gave the reason that citizen journalism exposes the other side of stories. The study argued that citizen journalism has done more good than harm in the media sector and has impacted positively on the mainstream media. This impact has gone beyond news gathering and dissemination to solving the unethical issue of brown envelope journalism in Nigeria. The study recommends that traditional journalists should not view citizen journalists as a threat to the profession rather, they should partner with them to improve the profession. It also recommends that media regulatory bodies should accelerate efforts towards ensuring strict adherence to ethics in pursuit of professionalism.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

As a profession that serves the interest of the public, journalists have vast responsibilities everyday facing challenges that test their ethical values and responsibility to truth telling. Despite professional code of ethic, most Journalists violate the rules by accepting bribe (brown envelope) while covering news or features. This in some cases lower the Journalists, and the media houses credibility and undermine it’s professional career.

Corruption is dangerous to society and can be extremely devastating to media. Therefore while acknowledging the attempt by federal government to fight corruption and economic crimes, there should be a conference call on all media practitioners and stake holders to adapt zero tolerances attitude to bribe (brown envelope) in the media, and indeed society at large.

Sanni (2007 p. 39) assert that corruption is the greatest albatross and the most virulent cog militating against good governance and national development in Nigeria. Journalist may use the media for their personal ends or for the good of the public. As human needs are insatiable, there are chances where some journalist may sacrifice the public interest for their selfish motives and ignoring social responsibility. Such behavior damages the profession integrity and reputation.

Thus journalism practices involve the gathering, packaging and disseminating of news for general public. Generally in today’s society that mass media are seen as a veritable instruments of information dissemination, social mobilization and as well as control, It is one of the means through which the public is been educated and sensitized on important issues affecting the lives of the public. And as such, journalism ethical values should be guarded to avoid the ethical pitfalls like (brown envelops) and favor, which journalist collect from their news sources called bribe. Bribe can happen in two ways i.e. journalist receiving from a news sources or journalist issuing it in order to get the needed information, Such reporting may affect news content or dilute stories with hidden agenda.

As a noble profession, journalism demand discipline and ethical behaviour to uphold the tenets of social responsibility by the journalist, as the society depend on the mass media for survival. The public requires information Mac Bride at all (1981) posit.

This is needed in order to react knowledgeably to personal conditions, as well as be in a position to take appropriate decision. Through numerous educational programmers such as quizzes, debates and document arise; the public can be concretized on the need to accord people their proper position. Unfortunately, due to government pressure on the journalism, poverty and lack of training, many journalist engage in some unethical practices such as sensationalism, yellow journalism check book journalism, invasion of privacy particularly Brown envelop.

This study characterized the present Nigeria mass media landscape. The development affect the credibility of mass media, their audience i.e. listeners, readers, viewers etc who have all lost confidence in mass media content due to the influence of bribe on the journalists news judgment and objectivity.

Ukozor (2002) posts that ethics should give journalists the standard by which they can judge action either to be right or wrong, good or bad, responsible or irresponsible, That Journalists today need to know their limitation so as not to abuse the power of the media. In coronation of this view, Okunna describes ethical Journalist as a position of democracy. The impact of this, shows the essence of ethical responsibility on media practitioners for balanced, objective and accurate news reporting. In an article he captioned “Settlement Culture and the Nigerian Media”, Waziri Adio, a former managing director of the New Nigerian Newspapers, writes that on April 15, 2002, the Time magazine published a story about Nigeria entitled “The Whole Truth”, which raised fundamental issues regarding journalism ethics in the country. Written by Stephen Faris, the story alleged that the office of the Minister of Information and Orientation, Professor Jerry Gana, gave foreign journalists reference materials on Nigeria and some brown envelopes containing $400 each after a press conference. The story further alleged that the minister’s gesture was aimed at bribing and pacifying some foreign journalists that were in the habit of carrying uninformed and sensational stories on Nigeria. Adio notes that although the federal government, headed by Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, set up a panel to probe the allegation, the panel did not indict the official involved; making the then Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Kanu Agabi, to say that the story should have been more appropriately entitled “The Whole Lie”. Agabi said the gift of N50,000 to the foreign journalists was a normal thing, even among international media organisations. Adio, however, has a view contrary to Agabi’s understanding of the incident: As if this was not bad enough, Nigerian newspaper editorials, cartoons and columns have been making the specious argument that this is another instance of Western media bias and fixation with negative news from Africa. Perhaps fired by patriotism, perhaps motivated by embarrassment, Nigerian journalists have dumped their critical faculties on this issue. The press has chorused: this is not bribery, such practices abound even in the western world, everyone does it etc., etc. I had hoped that someone would be able to think outside the box and ahead of the pack in this instance. I pined for the contrarian view that should be the hallmark of a plural press. I am yet to come across one. And this is where the real danger lies: that we have come to the day that nearly everyone sees nothing untoward in the action of the government and the journalists who accepted the so-called honoraria. Everyone thinks this is standard practice in journalism. This incident and others like it call for a critical examination of the brown envelope syndrome, with a view to ascertaining if it truly has a legitimate place in the practice of journalism in Nigeria and indeed, anywhere in the world. What follows, therefore, is a treatise of the brown envelope syndrome and its debilitating impact on the future of journalism in the country.

Regrettably, communication in Nigeria is mainly influences by economic extremism on one hand and government pressure on the other hand. In developing nations like Nigeria, poverty debases human dignity and causes the scale of honour and trust for money through bribe to influence news as opposed to editors sense of values. Also the wages of an average journalist is low considering the enormous task he/she performs in society. That may be seen as a contributing factor in making him or her to compromise the profession.

Thus, recognition of this views the researcher to examine the effects of bribe on the practices of journalism.

1.2 Statement of Problem

Information has emerged as the most vital means of achieving development in this age. presently ,Nigeria is suffering from lack of quality and usable information from the media, media practices have lost it objectivity due to the level of bribe practices found in the media industry and the condition is worsening to such a point that if nothing drastically is been done about it, journalism as a profession will succumb to brown envelope. It is against this background that this study will try to examine the problem of bribe proffers appropriate solution.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

To further the investigation properly, the researcher believed that the study will have the following objectives.

  1. To ascertain if acceptance of bribe influences the journalist sense of news judgment
  2. To determine whether bribe affects journalism practice in favour of the giver.
  3. Finally to identify factors responsible for receiving bribe with a view of addressing them.
  4. To reveal whether journalist demand bribe as requirement to discharge their duty

1.4 Significances of the Study

The study will have the following significances

  1. To help put motivation among journalist in discharge of their duty
  2. It will help media houses to redirect and re-oriented their staff on the effect of bribe on media credibility.
  3. It will also serve as a useful guide for future researcher that may be interested in this area of study and policy makers on communication.
  4. It will help reveal some factors that militate against journalism practices, like news, commercialization, ownership influence, and poor salaries etc on media performance.
  5. Finally, this study will help to stress the need for process freedom and right of people to know for sound media Practice in Nigeria.

1.5 Scope of the Study;

The project topic deals with the effect of bribe among journalism practices within Kaduna metropolis with specific references to FRCN Kaduna as scope of study.

1.6 Limitation of the Study;

This study modern journalism and the effects of bribe which should have encompassed all the media in Nigeria, but due to poor finances and logistics, it was limited to Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria Kaduna Branch (FRCN Kaduna) which is government owned media organization. Moreover, the limitation of time made it impossible for a further research work beyond one case study used (FRCN Kaduna).

1.6 Research Question of the Study

  1. 1. How does bribe influences the journalists sense of news judgment
  2. How does bribe affect the quality of a journalist report
  3. What factors are responsible for journalist receiving bribe?
  4. Could financial back ground play a role influencing the attitude of journalist towards bribe.
  5. Do journalist demand bribe as requirement to discharge their duty.

1.7 Definition of Terms

1. Bribe:

Conceptually refers to monetary gift and other incentive given gives to somebody at a point in time.

Bribe operationally refers to money, and other incentive given to journalist in media house, newspapers, magazine, radio and television by newsmakers to influence their news coverage as opposed to ethics of journalism profession.

2. Effects:

Conceptually means impact on something

Operationally means negative or positive influence of bribe on a journalists sense of news judgment.

3. Journalism:

Conceptually means the act of writing and printing of information or news reports for the media.

Operationally journalism refers to the process of gathering processing and dissemination of information to the heterogeneous, faceless and diversified audience by the media.

4. Objective:

Conceptually mean the publication of true, fair, accurate and unbiased report by journalists in their performances of information dissemination task in the society, and in line with ethical codes of the profession.

5. Brown envelope:

This is q paper cover with a gummed or tuck in flap to hold a letter.

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendation

The results from this study provide confirmatory evidence that citizen journalism impacts positively on mainstream journalism in Nigeria. This impact has curbed the unethical practice of brown envelope journalism which poses a threat to the image of the profession and ability of journalists to perform their duties objectively. The consensus view among the journalists surveyed reveals that the entry of citizen journalists into the information scene has blocked the avenues through which brown envelope journalists request or accepts gratifications to perform their duty. The major factor responsible for this rests on the fact that citizen journalism has provided alternative platforms for people to know what is happening in the society. What this means is that citizen journalism has created multitude of exits through which news worthy events are disseminated to the people unlike the single exit which existed before. The single gate exit enabled the mainstream media to gate-keep what comes out of the gate. Since this was the case, information coming out of that gate was no longer based on truth but on gratification. But with the multiple exits provided by citizen journalism, brown envelope journalists can no longer hide certain information from the people because it is already out there in Blogs and other citizen journalism sites.

Furthermore, the findings reveal that the daily routine of journalists in Nigeria is no longer the same since the emergence of citizen journalism. A good number of journalists surveyed said that the impact of citizen journalism is most felt on the speed of their reporting. The traditional style of news gathering and dissemination has changed to accommodate the presence of citizen journalists in the field. Journalists no longer need to be physically present to report a story as soon as it happens. All they need to do is to engage the reports of accidental journalists who happen to be at the scene to make up their stories. In fact, the findings reveal that journalists have shifted their investigative duty to citizen journalists due to the extra cost such investigations incur on their already stressed resources. This accounts for the fact that most breaking news (as revealed from the finding) comes from citizen journalism sites before featuring in the pages of newspapers or heard over the radio and television.

Again, the findings reveal that online citizen journalism sites are impacting on the editorial content and business of news organisations in Nigeria. This impact is felt most on the drop in the audience of population of mainstream media. The implication of this is that people will no longer buy newspapers like they used to or advertise like they used to. In fact, evidences discussed in the work reveals that citizen journalism sites and blogs are not just taking over mainstream media audience but also their revenue base. The study also reveals that the quality of mainstream media has improved since the emergence of citizen journalists.

The public sphere in Nigeria has changed into a more inclusive and participatory space where citizens engage in discus that has influenced government policies and improved accountability among the political office holders in Nigeria. Evidences show that the new public has unified the voices of over one hundred and seventy million people in order to monitor the activities of Politicians who have not been monitored for a long time. The extended effect of this is that even citizens in the country no longer involve themselves in acts of irregularity because it could be picked up on a recording device by anyone around.

This study does not validate the findings by Okoro and Onuoha (2013) which found that a good number of journalists do not perceive brown envelope as a bribe and as such does not affect the credibility of journalists or their contents. The results provides confirmatory evidence that journalists are increasingly becoming aware of the fact that brown envelope journalism is unethical and should be expunged from the media system. It also reveals that mainstream journalists recognise the fact that the emergence of citizen journalism in the media sector has blocked the avenues through which this unethical practice can thrive.

On the basis of the results, the work would argue that if participatory journalism is developing rather sluggishly in Nigeria as literature suggests (see Dare, 2010), it is because of the unwillingness of some media professionals to acknowledge the fact that citizen journalism is not a threat to the profession. Editors, News managers and older generation of journalists have refused to open up the news production process for citizen journalists to help them improve the profession. The country provides tremendous opportunities for citizen journalism to grow expand. A remarkable increase from its 19th position in the global ranking in 2005 to 8th position in 2014 shows that people are increasing getting themselves equipped to watch-dog the society and its leaders (including the media) to ensure all forms of corruption are removed from the country.

In summary, it is clear from the findings that citizen journalism and user generated is increasingly improving the practice of journalism in Nigeria and has helped to curb the unethical practice of brown envelope journalism. Its impact in the journalism process is reflected on the speed of reporting stories. The findings further reveal that the presences of online citizen journalism sites are fast taking over the audience of mainstream media and also their revenue. This challenge is a positive one because it will make the traditional journalists to expunge all unethical practice that is fast decreasing their image and credibility in the society. The study recommends that professional journalists should see the emergence of citizen journalism as an opportunity to expand and improve journalism sector just like other sectors have done. The banking sector, medical sector and so have all utilised the opportunity technology has offered them. The Automated Teller Machine (ATM/cash machine) has not replaced the role of cashiers in the bank, neither has computer and medical apps replaced the role of doctors in the hospitals.

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