Corruption in the Media: Who will investigate the Investigators?
By: Aondover Eric Msughter
As enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, specifically section 39 subsection 2, the media have been empowered with freedom of expression. Section 22 of the same Constitution also guarantees the media with the fundamental rights to hold the government accountable to the people. It is also on record that the media are regarded as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the watchdog of the society, or in what others termed as the “eyes and the ears of the society”. Apart from the judiciary, executive, and the legislature, the media are the fourth arm of the government that is supposed to checkmate the activities of the three arms of government. In an ideal situation, the media are expected to hold the government accountable to the people, especially on issues that have to do with public interest or corrupt practices in the country.
No doubt, the media play a key role in holding the government accountable to the people. While the media can help to strengthen government institutions, especially through its watchdog role, significant reform is also needed to strengthen media organizations, limit corruption, and restore public confidence in the press. Investigative journalism in Nigeria is limited by low salaries, bad working conditions, corrupt practices by journalists, and clientelism. Investigative journalism can be distinguished from routine journalism in that it must be in the public interest and relies on extensive research and the follow-up of information. Investigative journalism often involves exposing corruption, as well as acts that violate norms and morals. Allegations of corruption become scandals when they are exposed to the public, most often by the media.
Nigeria is a nation in tension, and corruption in Nigeria is a very complex phenomenon that affects every facet of life in the country. In the words of a former Chief Justice of the country, Mahmud Mohammed (Daily Times, July 19, 2016), corruption in the Nigerian context “breaches the fundamental human rights of citizens, undermines the collective security; aggravates poverty, while threatening the legitimacy of constitutional governance and democracy.” Corruption has been majorly responsible for the country’s underdevelopment, poor elements that breed desperation, frustration, and aggression.
Ironically, the quality of media reportage regarding corruption in Nigeria is questionable. Is either the watchdog sleeping on duty, or the watchdog is eating the stolen meat and forgets to go after the people stealing the meat. This is alarming, the media is supposed to be the custodian of the public properties. Today, the issue of the brown envelope is becoming more pronounced in journalistic practice or engagement. Hardly journalists covered the event without a sizable envelope. Aside from this, there is also an issue with LTP, let them pay. People from the grassroots who should be in the news are hardly covered because they cannot afford the cost to appear in the news. Again, the issue of news commercialization is another saga.
Over time, corruption has shattered the confidence of citizens, organizations, and investors in the Nigerian governance system. Thus, the investigators need to be investigated because the rate at which corruption is permeating in the media is alarming, and if nothing is done, and urgently too, Nigeria should be able to witness another doom. This is not a prophecy, but the level at which corruption is eating deep into the system is alarming. The media can still address this issue and the time is now because a stitch in time saves nine. It is better for the media to live with trying and falling in curbing the menace of corruption without trying.
Aondover Eric Msughter,
Department of Mass Communication,
Skyline University Nigeria
Msughter can be reached via: [email protected]