THE PRESS AND REPORTAGE OF SELECTED NATIONAL ISSUES IN NIGERIA: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF LEADERSHIP AND THE SUN NEWSPAPERS 2013-2015

THE PRESS AND REPORTAGE OF SELECTED NATIONAL ISSUES IN NIGERIA: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF LEADERSHIP AND THE SUN NEWSPAPERS 2013-2015

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ABSTRACT

Even though the press occupies a central place both in the restoration and deepening of democratic government in Nigeria, the precise nature of its impact is a subject of scholarly disputation. The tenor of this disputation is characterized by this ambivalence whereby, on the one hand both practitioners and scholars of the press in Nigeria often praise the Nigerian press for being the most virile in Africa, while on the other hand in analyzing its role in politics the press is accused by the same individuals of not only mirroring but also intensifying the manifold contradictions of the country and the conflicts stemming there from. Based on the entrenched notion that the press, the so-called fourth estate of the realm, is indispensable to democratic government which Nigeria practices, and because the actual impact of the press coverage of issues depends on the nature of the coverage, that is how the press frames the agenda of national discourse, the study considers how the press framed the coverage of Boko Haram, corruption and the 2015 presidential elections in the period 2013-2015 using the The Sun and Leadership newspaper. In addition to the normal research procedure of content analysis employed in mass media research, the study employed in-depth interview for better explanation of how The Sun and Leadership newspaper framed the themes of the study. Amongst others, the study found out that of the three (3) themes of the study, Boko Haram received the highest prominence followed by the 2015 presidential elections and then corruption; while on the whole there was no clear cut bias along geopolitical lines, the 2015 presidential elections evinced a greater likelihood of bias; that the pressures of the market and the national character of the staff of the newspapers reduced the likelihood of bias. On the basis of these findings, the study recommends increased professionalism for the press in Nigeria, that attempt be made by publishers of newspapers to employ staff that reflect the diversity of the country and the pursuit of innovative research problematiques for the Nigerian universities and checks and balances over the press by bodies like the Nigerian guild of editors to ensure that the power of the press is exercised responsibly.

CHAPTER ONE GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.1      Background to the Study

One of the significant developments in the 21st century is the pervasive influence of the

media in all spheres of society. The ascendancy of the media in the political realm is loudly

attested to by the invention of catch phrases to denote similar or different conceptions of the

relationship between the media and politics. Zaller (1999:1) uses the concept of media politics,

which he likens to party politics, judicial politics, legislative politics and bureaucratic politics, to

denote “a system of politics in which individual politicians seek to gain office, and to conduct

politics while in office, through communication that reaches citizens through the mass media.”

The phrase mediatization of politics was used by Mazzoleni and Schulz (1999) to

describe the growing significance of the media. According to them, Mediatization entails that

instead of serving as mediators between political institutions and citizens, the media are

increasingly becoming a key player in the political arena; indeed, it is impossible to imagine

modern politics without the existence and influence of the media. Together with other terms like

videocracy, electronic democracy and media democracy, these terms reflect the increasing

dependency of political action on the media (Mazzoleni and Schulz 1999). If political action is

increasingly dependent on the media, then the character of the media, in so far as it conditions

and determines the content of political action, whether functional or dysfunctional, deserves

close scrutiny.

It is for this reason that the idea of the freedom of expression, defined as the freedom to

hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas without interference, has-deriving from this

centrality-not only become a pivot of democratic rule, but political communication has emerged

1


and acquired a prominent place in the social sciences. In the charter of the United Nations this

freedom is reputed as the “touchstone of all the freedoms consecrated in the Charter of the

United Nations.” Almond perceptively captured this rising significance thus:

The formation of an informed public opinion is a prerequisite to obtaining the consent of the governed on a continuing basis. Autonomous communication media tend to reflect and to sustain homogenous political cultures like the United States and Great Britain by maintaining the boundaries between the other political structures and functions, and between society and polity…..the availability of neutral information about the functioning of the political system makes it possible for the electorate to perform its recruitment function intelligently and effectively, and at the same time tends to create an informed stratum of citizens who are public policy oriented rather than interest oriented in the narrow sense (emphasis mine) Almond cited in Hydle (1972:8).

If “…the availability of neutral information about the functioning of the political system makes it

possible for the electorate to perform its recruitment function intelligently and effectively…”

then it is a matter deserving of close academic scrutiny, not as a mere intellectual exercise, but

because of the implications for practical politics of a non-neutral press in a heterogenous society

like Nigeria. Put simply, the character of the structure of the media generally and the press

specifically, in terms of ownership pattern, as well as the implication of that ownership pattern,

for the availability of neutral or biased information, deserves intent consideration.

In his doctoral thesis titled The Press and Politics in Nigeria, Hydle (1976) further

amplifies Almond‟s thesis of the significance of political communication. He concludes with

respect to Nigeria that dire implications for democracy, nation-building, peace and progress flow

from the character of the structures of political communication. He showed how the sectional

contradictions of Nigerian politics have percolated into the structures of political communication

in the country with newspapers evidently serving as mouth pieces of political parties and

politicians with the militating factor being only economic imperatives.

2


While most studies (Jibo and Okoosi-Simbine 2003, Tsebee 2010, Omenugha and Oji,

2008, Ojebuyi and Ekennia 2013, Okoro 2013, Olayiwola 2013, Uduodo and Osak 2008,

O


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