TO DETERMINE THE BROWN ENVELOPE SYNDROME AMONG NIGERIAN JOURNALISTS AND ITS EFFECT ON THE IMAGE OF NIGERIAN MASS MEDIA

TO DETERMINE THE BROWN ENVELOPE SYNDROME AMONG NIGERIAN JOURNALISTS AND ITS EFFECT ON THE IMAGE OF NIGERIAN MASS MEDIA

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CHAPTER ONE

1.0            Introduction

     The place of the Nigerian mass media in building the Nigerian state cannot be overemphasized both in the military regime and its sequined experience towards democratization. Nigerian journalists have taken the position of war lords to ensure that the rights of citizens are not tramped upon. This is a research work on “Brown envelope syndrome and its effects on the image of Nigerian Journalists: A case study of Nigeria Union of Journalists, Kaduna. The content includes an Introduction, Background of the Study, Statement of the Research Problem, Research Questions, Objectives of the Study, Method of Data Collection, Significance of the Study, Scope of the Study as well as Definition of Key terms.

1.1       Background of the Study

   As important as information technological resources are to media organizations, so also            are human resources. Human resources are important elements that form the crux of the   subject matter of brown envelop syndrome (BES). According to Ekerikevwe (2009), brown envelop is common in journalism practice in Nigeria. It is a situation whereby          journalists demand for bribe or other forms of gratification before they cover any event or      even publish stories from such events. Journalism is a veritable tool for information    dissemination, social mobilization and control. It is a means of public education and   sensitization on important issues affecting the lives of the people. The vehicle through    which journalists fulfill this obligation to the society is the mass media, which comprises         of Radio, Television, Films, Books, Sound Recordings, Newspapers, Magazines, and Internet among others. In one way or the other, the society depends on the mass media for information, opinions, entertainment, ideas and a range of other resources. Journalism serves as a mirror in the society, the conciliator, the gatekeeper of issues and events and as such, a very important institution in every society                                                                                              

    About half a century ago, journalism was regarded as an important profession and not just mere pastime. One does not just become a Journalist without a requisite training and skill. The noble profession required at that time some basic training on relevant subjects coupled with practical experience that would facilitate the look or beauty. Journalism is therefore the window through which the society and the world are seen. 

     According to Sobawale (cited in Michael, 1997), Journalists are aware of these responsibilities bestowed on them but tend to compromise this unique responsibilities and ethical standard. They derail from the law governing the practice of their profession and serve the public with information that are sometimes not fully correct, all in the name of gratification.

     In view of their training and level of awareness, Journalists are regarded as the elite in the society and for their reputation to be maintained, it depends on individual compulsive and uprightness which either make or mar their reputation. The work of journalism is sensitive and dangerous since it always keeps an eye on the society to ensure that things are correctly done.

Since the work of journalism is about information dissemination, concerned citizens admonish Nigerian Journalists to always publish the truth and avoid sectionalism. Today, people want Nigerian Journalists to be objective when people who are the source of News turn around and offer bribe to pressmen to compromise the ethical standard.

     According to Aboderin (1993), people want editorial and article, yet no public figure will bring reporter information of public interest. But the fact is that, people demand fair and balance reportage from media so as to promote ethical practice and objectivity. In Nigeria today, people want to eat their cake and have it. No wonder many Journalists are at cross road of their profession because of the intricate issues involved in their practice, in as much as they strive for objectivity, some people must be displeased by the role they play in the society. As such, Journalists most avoid sentiments while discharging their duties. According to Aboderin (1993), accepting brown envelope or “last paragraph” and suppress information at the expense of the general public would only pose danger to their professional responsibility.            

     Journalism as a mill public opinion is molded despite the fact that owners of some media outfits tend to dictate editorial contents without free land for operation. This interference often compromise objectivity of news and articles. Journalism used to be an all corners profession where people who could read and write dabbled into it and claimed to be Journalist without any knowledge of journalism.

     Perhaps, it was the desire to rid journalism of quacks that generated some debate in the past as to whether journalism was a profession or a craft which anybody with a formal or informal education can venture into. Sociologist who contended that journalism is a serious profession that demands commitment and dedication by practitioners in order to help develop the society. When journalism was given the necessary leverage like other credible professions, its activities are regulated by a body known as the Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ). This union has contracted to restore safety to journalism profession in Nigeria.

     A good Journalist must acquire the necessary training so as to be accepted in the profession. However, considering the numerous challenges of the profession, it only takes practitioners with requisite training to cope with its rigorous demands. This means that journalism is also about endurance. Okpoko (2006) said journalism is a noble profession in which Journalists are given sound training in the skills and tools of the vocational journalism. Journalists have inherent atmosphere and a free market of ideas which help them to attain the highest level of their performance. Therefore, professionalism in journalism involves ethical conducts and moral standards. The Nigerian Journalists are the application of rational thoughts by media professionals when they are deciding between two or more competing moral choices. Also, for every Journalist to reflect ethics in his/her reports, he/she has clear idea about what is right or wrong in the profession. Asemah (2009) said Journalists must be free from association and activities that may compromise their integrity or damage their own or organizational credibility. Journalists must seek out competing perspectives without being unduly influenced by those who would use their power or position to counter public interest. Asemeh (2009) added that the ethical problem of materialism can be manifested in the form of bribery and acceptance of gifts (freebies, junkets and perks). Journalists often accept money and non-monetary gift to perform their normal responsibilities of information dissemination.

     Junkets are trips with expenses paid by someone who may expect favour in turn. While freebies are gifts from which the giver may expect favour in turn, which goes with the job and unethical Journalists accept them to accompany visits or coverage. The question of accepting bribe and gifts and lavish entertainments continue to pose problems for Journalists and their credibility to counter the temptations of free gifts, established and well capitalized media establishments pay full expense and provide for extra expenses for their reporters.

            “But the poorer one cannot afford some basic necessities of life therefore they enjoy such favours from those they are supposed to be covering. But the question whether or not this influences reporters has been controversial, some insist that they compromise the independence of the Journalists (Sambe and Ikoni, 2004:186). But Godwin et al (1994) said, Journalists who enjoys gratification argues that free gift does not influence their judgment. They argued that “you have to remember that the person offering the treat has a set of ethics too and the moment you turn him down, you are questioning his own ethics. It hurts people for the reporter to turn the treat down”.

     However, Journalists should be aware that nothing goes for nothing. Demanding for gratification or brown envelop is unethical as it leads to the suppression of and distortion of information.

     Asemeh (2009) said, pressure has been described as any force of influence which makes a Journalist feels strongly compelled to act in a manner desirable to influence. In Nigeria where extended family system is practiced, the Journalists try to meet up with financial and other demands from his/her nephews, cousins, etc do force him to do unethical things like collecting brown envelope (Egunje in Asemah, 2009: 320).

     Journalists often carry out wishes of their employers because of the fear of being punished physically or psychologically and they do this because they lack knowledge of the effects of the acts they are carrying out. He who pays the piper dictates its tune. Therefore, accepting or asking for brown envelopes by Journalists will bring conflicting interests which play themselves out in a variety of ways as truth and honesty, privacy and confidentiality, personal conflict of interest, profit and social responsibility and protection from offensive content are not managed and observed by the Journalists. However, Baran (2004) sees brown envelope as speaking fees, free travels, and other gifts from groups and corporations that they may later have to examine. It is proper for media personnel to fail to disclose the sources and amount of such gift. That is to say, the corrupt nature of the Nigerian society has to an extent affected the Nigerian Journalists thereby bedeviling media professionalism. Despite the Nigerian Union of Journalist code of conduct, some Journalists do not adhere to their code of conduct.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

     Despite the functions performed by Journalists as the watchdog of the society, they are expected to mount surveillance over the environment and correlate the components of the society to ensure effective functioning of the system which will assist in the transmission of the social heritage from generation to generation, among other functions. Journalists are unable to exercise their professional responsibilities due to the bedeviled nature of the society and negligence of duty in search of greener pastures elsewhere.

     Even the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) and Nigerian Guild of Editors Codes of ethics that frown at inducement and gratification, Journalists still appear to operate in total collapse today. Therefore, the need for re-examining the issues bothering the reporters and the media organization with fairness, balance, privacy and gratification in reporting is important. Journalists in Nigeria reflect the level of corruption in the country. This is ironical because the profession is suppose to unearth corruption but instead the reverse is the case, this study intends to study and bring out some lapses associated with the practice using Nigeria union of journalists (NUJ), Kaduna as a guide code.

1.3       Objectives of the Study

The objectives of the study are:

1.     To identify the rationale behind the ditching out of brown envelope to Journalist.

2.     To ascertain the reason why Journalists accept brown envelope at the expense of the ethics of their profession.

3.     To sample opinion with a view to ascertaining their reactions on the concern of Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ) over the issue of brown envelope among Journalists.

4.     To determine whether or not the objectives of the giver of brown envelope are normally achieved.

5.     To know if those involved in collecting are punished or sanctioned or not.

1.4       Research Questions

1.     Do Journalists collect gratification?

2.     Why do Journalists accept brown envelope?

3.     What is NUJ doing to eradicate this menace?

4.     Does brown envelope affect the quality of information Journalist reports?

5.     What is NUJ doing in order to restore the bad image that some journalists are painting the Nigeria mass media?

1.5       Significance of the Study

The purpose of this study is to find out the extent of the rapid increase of gratification problems by recommending possible and practicable solutions. Also, the research is of paramount significance to the researcher because he wants to know as an aspiring journalist, issues relating to brown envelop and the extent to which they can affect an individual’s career.

1.6       Scope and Limitation of the Study

This research is intended to cover the entire Journalists in Nigeria. However, due to the limited time frame available, the research work will not be able to survey all Journalists in Nigeria. Therefore, the study is limited to Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Kaduna chapter.

1.7       Definition of Key Terms

This section explains terms that are pertinent to this study.

Brown Envelope: Means to deliver concealed materials like money, secret papers or any sort of under the table transfer. According to Ekeikevwe (2009), it is a situation whereby journalists demand for bribe or other forms of gratification before they cover any event or even publish stories from such event.

Syndrome: Refers to an undesirable condition that is characterized by a particular type of activity or behaviour.

Journalists: Refers to people, whose job is collecting information, writing and publishing newspaper and/or other mass media.  

Mass Media: Refers to the channels through which information reaches the general public. These channels include Radio, Television, Newspaper, Magazine and also Social Media (ICT).


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