Tag Archives: JOURNALISM

World Press Freedom Day

2016 Theme: Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms – This Is Your Right!

“On this World Press Freedom Day, I urge all Governments, politicians, businesses and citizens to commit to nurturing and protecting an independent, free media. Without this fundamental right, people are less free and less empowered. With it, we can work together for a world of dignity and opportunity for all.”
– Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Freedom of Information as Fundamental Freedom and Human Right

Freedom of information can be generally defined as the right to access information held by public bodies.
As it is explained in the UNESCO publication Freedom of Connection, Freedom of Expression (2011): “In so far as freedom of expression is deemed to be one of the fundamental civil rights supporting democratic processes, freedom of information is required in order to ensure that citizens can vote in an informed way, and that they can hold their governments accountable through public scrutiny.”

Furthermore, in the UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment 34 on Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the connections between imparting expression and access to information is strongly linked to the right for the citizens to take part in public affairs. Journalism has a major role to play in this regard. The right to information is linked to wider transparency in society, as highlighted in the 2015 UNESCO study ‘Keystones to foster inclusive Knowledge Societies: Access to information and knowledge, Freedom of Expression, Privacy, and Ethics on a Global Internet’, mandated by the UNESCO Member States.

The study further underscores the importance of user empowerment to deal with information and communications, such as through Media and Information Literacy. Again, journalism is central to all these aspects. A major obstacle to open access to information is overreach in governmental secrecy. States should be able to keep some information confidential in line with legitimate purposes and processes set out in international human rights laws. However, information from administrative and executive authorities, concerning for example laws and public expenditure, should generally be accessible to everyone. Hence, freedom of information both helps provide oversight over governmental bodies, as well as the possibility to hold them accountable, and this right strengthens the relevance of press freedom and independent journalism.

Since the adoption of the world’s first freedom of information law in modern-day Sweden and Finland in 1766, more than 90 other countries have adopted such provisions. However, there are issues such as whether exceptions are narrowly tailored; whether there is protection for whistle-blowers, and whether there is impact on relevant information held by private entities. Implementation of freedom of information raises issues such as whether the laws are well-known, in terms of high public awareness; whether requests are administered efficiently and whether there are high fees for the requester; and whether information is published by own initiative or released upon request.

Another issue is that even in countries where there are freedom of information laws or legal provisions, journalists may have difficulty in accessing, understanding, and subsequently using the raw data or information. This is where data journalism can play a role in accessing and interrogating data and mashing up data sets to produce results that inform audiences “something new about the news”. Differential access to information along gender lines as well as the gender-disaggregation of information, are additional key issues.

When journalists are empowered to use freedom of information laws to bring hidden information to light, they can amplify their potential to enhance the accountability of institutions as part of the SDG conception of sustainable development. Proactive steps by states to open up records can also greatly help to ensure transparency in public administration.
In these ways, freedom of information is closely linked to a culture of openness and the idea of participatory democracy, both of which are key to sustainable development. It is also important to promote a broad range of cultural expressions in media, in order to develop media diversity and the inclusion of minority groups in the media landscape.

Protecting Press Freedom from Possible Censorship and surveillance Overreach

In the digital age, press freedom is confronted by growing challenges of arbitrarily blocking access to online information, limiting or punishing cyber-expression, and arbitrary intrusions on digital privacy. These developments impact on those who do journalism, on others who express themselves online, and also on those who receive online information indirectly through multi-step flows.
They may also unjustifiably limit the diversity of cultural expression, a principle enshrined in the 2005 UNESCO Convention on The Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. These phenomena curb both people’s access to information as well as the range of information and expression online. There are serious implications of the increasing number of measures which regulate
Internet content through blocking of web sites and of communications tools in ways that exceed international standards requiring legality, necessity, proportionality and legitimate purpose. These steps constrain the ability of a society to make informed choices about development and democracy, a priority for UNESCO in building the foundations for inclusive, knowledge societies. They may also represent a form of prior restraint, pre-emptively presuming an act of communication to be guilty of an offence rather than testing it in court after actual expression.

An inter-related issue is the challenge of possible surveillance overreaching. The right to privacy is well-established as a precondition for freedom of expression, and for the protection of journalists’ confidential sources. Privacy intersects also with anonymity, and with the use of encryption. An absence of these facilities can seriously inhibit the free flow of information, something that may have particular implications for people seeking to challenge gender inequality as well as for challenging expressions of advocacy for hatred on gender lines.
Where journalistic source protection is compromised, there may be cover-ups of corruption, intimidation and exposure of sources’ identities with repercussions on them. In the long term, this can contribute to sources of information running dry and to self-censorship in society at large.

In this regard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion has also assessed the issue through a 2015 report noting that in situations “where States impose unlawful censorship through filtering and other technologies, the use of encryption and anonymity may empower individuals to circumvent barriers and access information and ideas without the intrusion of authorities”. The report further calls on States to have national laws which recognize that individuals are free to protect the privacy of their digital communications by using encryption technology and tools that allow anonymity online.
The legal frameworks that protect the confidentiality of sources of journalism are essential to reporting information in the public interest. However, these frameworks are under significant strain in the digital age, and there is a need to revise and strengthen them – or introduce them where they do not exist. UNESCO, with the support of funding from Sweden, has commissioned research by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN-IFRA) which explore an 11-point assessment tool for consideration by Member States for pinpointing areas where source protection frameworks can be improved.

Conclusion

Press freedom and access to information are essential to democracy and to sustainable development. Journalism helps make this so. Sometimes referred to as a “watchdog” of political and societal institutions, journalism is also much more: it demonstrates freedom of expression for society at large, it puts new questions on the development agenda, and it empowers citizens with information.
It provides a context in which the diversity of cultural expressions can flourish. For all these reasons, strengthening the conditions for journalism is key to developing a culture of openness, access to information and fundamental freedoms. To this end, World Press Freedom Day 2016 seeks to advance the right to information, press freedom, and the environment for journalism to done in safety. It resonates with contemporary global issues and opportunities. In this way, around the world, it should be possible for stakeholders to continue to take the Day to an ever higher level of visibility, relevance, and impact.

Source: http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/CI/CI/pdf/WPFD/WPFD2016_Concept-Note.pdf

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MEDIA AND ANTI-CORRUPTION CRUSADE IN NIGERIA

BY AFOLAYAN EMMANUEL AYODELE

INTRODUCTION

Corruption remains a symptom of a poorly functioning state as witnessed in most developing countries such as Nigeria. Indeed, those who give and receive bribes can drain a nation’s wealth; leaving little for its poorest citizens. Highly corrupt countries like Nigeria often face particular challenges even when controlled by reform-minded rulers.

The history of corruption in Nigeria is strongly rooted in the over 29 years of military rule. All the military regimes subdued the rule of law, facilitated the looting of the public treasury, prohibited free speech and instituted a secret culture in the running of government business. The period of this military regime witnessed a total reversal and destruction of every good thing in the country (Ribadu, 2006). Corruption became the dominant guiding principle for running affairs of the country. When military seized power from democratically elected governments, pervasive corruption was cited as the justification. It is clear that military regimes were worse than the civilian regimes as far as corruption was concerned.

The harshest decree ever promulgated by the military in Nigeria was Decree 4 of 1984, which succeeded in rolling up defamation, sedition, and proscription laws – all in one (Malunzen 1995). Apart from other laws such as defamation, sedition and contempt of court, there were other laws against the practice of journalism that are contained in the penal code.
During democratic process, political activities assumed a dangerous dimension as contestants see their victory as the ticket to loot and amass wealth. The civilian administration of 1979 – 1983 was bedeviled with wanton waste, political thuggery and coercion, disrespect for the rule of law and free for all looting of public funds through white elephant projects. Despite the presence of EFCC, ICPC and other enforcement agencies during Obasanjo’s regime, the administration was not spared of corrupt acts. Specifically, corruption became legitimized, especially during the Babangida and Abacha regimes (1985-1998), with huge revenues, but wasteful spending, and nothing to show in terms of physical developments (Nwanka, 1999).

A critical element of a country’s anti-corruption program is an effective media. Media in this case is either Print or Broadcasting Media. The media raises public awareness about corruption, its causes, consequences and possible remedies. The persistence of Transparency International (2002) in setting Nigeria among the bottom five nations in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) since 1995 is an indication that media has not performed this role effectively (Sowumi, et al 2012). This study is of relevance not only because it brings to the fore the role of media in curbing corruption in Nigeria but it also identifies the obstacles being faced by media in the fight against corruption.

AIM OF THE STUDY
This study focuses on the anticorruption crusade championed by the media in curbing corruption in Nigeria.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: AGENDA SETTING THEORY

The ability of the media to pre-determine what issues are important gives the media an edge to fight corruption since they can easily lay emphasis on the atrocities being committed by public figures in the country. According to Folarin (200:75), ‘Agenda Setting Theory does not ascribe to the media the power to determine what we actually think, but it does ascribe to them the power to determine what we are thinking about’.
The theory is relevant to this paper because the media can utilize the elements of this theory through increasing the frequency of reportage of corrupt activities in the country; giving prominence to corrupt activities through headline display, picture and layout in newspaper, magazines, film, graphics, or timing on radio and television.
The power of the media to expose corrupt acts through the elements of this theory will go a long way in reducing corrupt acts in the country. If public figures know that their corrupt acts will be giving a lot of publicity, they are likely to have a rethink before stealing public funds.

MEANING OF CORRUPTION
According to Salisu (2000:68), the simplest definition of corruption is that ‘it is the misapplication of public resources to private ends’. For example, public officials may collect bribes for issuing passports or visa, for providing permits and licenses , for authorising passage of goods at sea/airport, for awarding contracts or for enacting regulations designed to create artificial scarcity.

Macrae (1982:28) on the other hand sees corruption as “an arrangement that involves an exchange between two parties (the demander and the supplier) which (i) has an influence on the allocation of resources either immediately or in the future; and (ii) involves the use or abuse of public or collective responsibility for private ends.” Sternberg (2000:43) relates corruption with bribe when he states that a “bribe is an incentive offered to encourage someone to break the rules of the organization he nominally represents and deliver an (unfairly) favorable outcome.”
Corrupt acts are regarded as criminal by many high-income countries because the bribe-recipient’s betrayal of trust with his employer, when practiced systemically by high-ranking public officials, compromises the “development of fair and efficient markets” (Boatright, 1999). In broader terms, Windsor and Getz, (2000:112) define corruption as “socially impermissible deviance from some public duty or more generally some ideal standard of conduct”

CAUSES OF CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA
Several reasons have been adduced for corruption in Nigeria, one of which is the sudden disappearance of good moral and ethical values. Nwaobi (2004) affirms that Nigeria must be one of the very few countries in the world where a man’s source of wealth is of no concern to his neighbours, the public or the government. Wealthy people who are known to be corrupt are regularly courted and honoured by communities, religious bodies, social clubs and other private orgaizations. This implies that people who benefit from the largesse of these corrupt people rarely ask questions. Sociological and/or cultural factors such as customs, family pressures on government officials and ethnicity constitute potential causes of corruption.

The most annoying thing is that honest and dedicated public servants, who have not accumulated dirty wealth, do not command much respect from the society. These attitudes serve to encourage a new-breed of public servants who engage in corrupt practices. A weak enforcement mechanism (e.g. lack of judicial independence; weak prosecutorial institutions) is another major cause of corruption in Nigeria.
The forces, which deter corruption, are often weak as some, if not most, of the law enforcement agencies are themselves corrupt. In addition, rulers, politicians and civil servants are highly corrupt, and professional organizations may be in capable of sanctioning their members (Sowumi, et al).
It is also clear that the process of gaining power in Nigeria is either by armed force or the influence of money. Jimo & Wade (2001) attributed corruption in Nigeria to over-centralization of power, lack of media freedom to expose scandals, the impunity of well connected officials, and absence of transparency in public fund management.

Ayoola (2008) is of the opinion that if democracy is to survive and be a fruitful concept, the role of the media in sustaining it through anti-corruption crusade couldn’t be overemphasized. He stated further that certain issues must be placed at the forefront of such endeavour. Primary of these is the proper understanding of the concept of democracy by all, and the nature of the media practice that can nurture democracy and create favourable environment for it to thrive. He further noted that the immediate challenges before the media right now was to crave for a conducive environment for democracy to take root and become sustainable through the enthronement of a culture of freedom of speech and freedom of expression; government accountability and qualitative civil society in direct participation in governance.

FACTORS AFFECTING MEDIA PERFORMANCE IN COMBATING CORRUPTION
How effectively media work and report on corruption depends on a number of critical factors such as freedom of media professionals to access, verify and publish accurate information, and independence of media houses and their ability to access independent sources of financing. Competition, outreach and credibility of media are other important factors affecting media performance (Nogara, 2009). Each of these is examined accordingly as shown below:

• Freedom of expression – 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. Press freedom is positively correlated with lower levels of corruption (Brunetti & Weder, 2003).

• Access to information – Access to information is at the heart of transparency and public accountability. Information flows may facilitate public oversight of government and increase the accountability of politicians for bad conduct. In most countries, citizens receive the information they need through the media, which serve as the intermediaries that collect information and make it available to the public. Without reliable access to information, the media are severely limited in their capacity to exercise their public accountability function. Laws and regulations, such as “Official Secret Acts” and similar devices, are often used by governments to limit press access to sensitive information for reason of national security in order to balance the citizens’ right to know and the State’s right and duty to protect its security.

• Ownership – Private ownership is often associated with higher levels of government accountability and performance. Research has shown that government ownership of media restricts information flows to the public with negative effect on citizens’ rights, government effectiveness, and corruption; alternatively, increased private ownership of the media-through privatization or encouragement of entry – can advance political and economic goals. Competition from private media assures that alternative views are supplied to voters and prevents state-owned media from distorting the information they supply too heavily so that voters obtain, on average, unbiased and accurate information. Studies carried out found strong evidence that competition in the media has a significant impact on the reduction of corruption, and competition can even be a stronger determinant than freedom of expression.

• Credibility – People’s trust in independent media is essential to compel action against corruption from the authorities or the public. Media reputation in this regard is hard to establish. Journalists need to earn public trust and confidence by demonstrating their independence, objectivity and professionalism each and every day. Private media have an especially hard time to establish their credibility in Nigeria where people are more reluctant to trust new sources of political information. Government owned media have historically a wider access, especially in remote areas, and a well-established reputation. Private media, on the other hand, struggle to access important and reliable political information and have not always the freedom to publish it.
The private media’s primary aim to publish and sell news also feeds the public perception of a media bias against the government, especially in cases of corruption.

ANTI-CORRUPTION CRUSADE BY THE MEDIA IN COMBATING CORRUPTION
Stapenhurst (2000) affirms that a critical element of a country’s anticorruption program is an effective media. The media has a dual role to play: it not only raises public awareness about corruption, its causes, consequences and possible remedies but also investigates and reports incidences of corruption aiding other oversight bodies.
According to him, the way in which media serves as an impediment to corruption can be divided into tangible and intangible effects.

Tangible effects is made up of the readily identifiable way in which the news media perform and achieve some sort of visible outcomes that can be attributed to particular news story or series of stories on such subjects as: launching of investigation by authorities; scrapping of a law or policy and that foster a climate ripe with opportunities for corruption; impeachment or forced resignation of a crooked politician and firing of an official; launching of judicial proceeding and issuing of public recommendation by a watchdog body like transparency international.
He referred to intangible effects as those checks on corruption, which are inevitably the bye product of hard hitting independent news and can be characterised by broadened sense of accountability amongst politicians, public bodies and institutions.

The tangible ways in which media can serve as obstacle to corruption can take a variety of forms. Most spectacular among them is when corrupt bureaucrats or public office-holders are impeached, prosecuted or forced to resign after their misdeeds are exposed to public light. However, journalism also acts directly to curb corruption in other, less spectacular but, arguably, equally important ways. Reporting, for example, may prompt public bodies to launch formal investigations into allegations of corruption. Furthermore, news accounts disseminate the findings of public anti-corruption bodies, thus reinforcing the legitimacy of these bodies and reducing the ease with which interested parties who hold power can meddle in their work.

Conversely, when journalism exposes flaws and even corruption within the various bodies of the state (the courts, police and anti-corruption task forces), corruption is put on check. If the resulting public pressure leads to a reform of those bodies, the long–term effectiveness and potential of the media to act as a counterweight against corruption is strengthened.
There are cases when reporting on corrupt or ethically questionable behaviour does not result in immediate investigations, prosecutions or resignations, but does arouse the ire of the public, which exercises another form of sanction: electoral defeat at the ballot box for a single elected office holder or an entire government.
Journalism can also expose flaws in policy, laws or regulation that foster a climate ripe for corruption, thus creating pressure for reform. And even before anything has been published, mere inquiries by reporters about apparent wrong doing can elicit pre–emptive responses by authorities eager to protect the public image of their institution before any allegations is been aired.
The most obvious examples of media potential for curbing corruption can be seen when politicians or other senior public officials lose their jobs as a consequence of the public outcry or legal proceedings that follow the fearless reporting on corruption. Examples of this kind of outcome are not hard to find-particularly from Nigeria where a surge in media reporting on corruption charges (certificate forgery) has helped to force former speaker of house of representative – Ibrahim Salisu and former President of senate – Evan Ewerem to resign their positions.
Sometimes, too, journalists’ stories can play a critical role in reinforcing the effectiveness of public anticorruption bodies like EFCC and ICPC-even when the stories in question are not, strictly speaking, investigative reports that reveal wrongdoing of some kind . Simply reporting in a regular, detailed way on the work and findings of these bodies can reinforce public scrutiny of them and, hence, the independence of such bodies from vested interests within the power structure that might otherwise be tempted to interfere in their work.
The speculation about government interference in the activities of EFCC was prominent in the dailies and magazines during Obasanjo regime.
Journalists’ immediate interests are served by their work in that they provide reporters and their outlets with strong, dramatic stories to pursue and publish. The interests of the anticorruption bodies are equally served because reporting on their activities builds public support for their work-and, hence, reinforces their legitimacy-creating a climate that may make politicians who are the subject of their less inclined to meddle in or undermine their operations.

Another beneficial side effect of the publicity that journalists bring to the work of such bodies is that it may encourage witnesses to wrongdoing to step forward and testify about what they know.
Media are at the forefront of independently sourcing stories about corruption in Government. It was the media that exposed the web of corruption in the banking sector, compelling the Central Bank of Nigeria to carry out its own investigation. The media built the requisite public pressure for the CBN to institute measures against erring banks and initiate the reforms that resulted in the much -acclaimed reforms in the banking sector.

In 2005, a newspaper report revealed alleged impropriety by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development in the sale of government houses in Lagos. The story gained prominence when influential news papers picked it up. This resulted in direct intervention by the President, who cancelled the allocations. Denying any involvement in the scandal, the President took action and ordered that the process be started all over.
The legislative arm of the government has not been spared media attention and exposure with some losing their seats following media campaigns (Egbuna, 2007).
A good example is the case of former Speaker of House of Representative, Patrichia Ette who was exposed on her furniture allowance scandal. It was also the media that exposed Chuba Okadigbo, Dimeji Bamkole and of recent giving prominence to Farouk Lawan atrocity.
In addition to information from anti-graft agencies, the media are encouraging public participation in the fight against corruption. The restoration of democracy has been the wakeup call for the media to recognize human rights as fundamental and they have ever since been playing a captain’s role in safeguarding it.
They have popularized the notion of people’s right to information and creating opposition to all forms of secrecy and immunity for government officials. Because of the work of the electronic media, the citizens are becoming increasingly aware of their rights and how the Constitution protects these rights. It was the media that was at the fore front during the campaign for Freedom of Information Act in the country (media Rights Agenda 2011).

Through constant vigilance and reports on cases of infringement of rights, and by exposing brutality and repression, the media have caused a significant rise in public awareness of corrupt issues. Of particular relevance is the focus on the abduction and rape of some female undergraduates in Enugu in 2005. Similarly, the media especially the newspapers were responsible for exposing a Yoruba Traditional Ruler in Osun State who raped a corpse member posted to his locality The tenacity of Radio Nigeria through its human rights programme, Know Your Rights, put pressure on the police to investigate the report and bring charges..
Specifically, Radio Nigeria has another programme designed to fight corruption and encourage service delivery in the Police Force; called Police Diary. The live, interactive programme takes telephone calls from members of the public from across Nigeria on illegal activities of the police. The complaints are addressed immediately on the programme by the relevant police commissioners or Divisional Police Officers. Until December (2006) the programme was for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja audience only but because of its popularity, it became a network programme available at the same time to listeners on all thirty-five Radio Nigeria stations (Egbuna , 2007).

Constraints of Media in Anti-corruption Crusade
Although there is freedom of information now in the country which means the media in Nigeria are given the constitutional duty of upholding the responsibility and accountability of government to the people, they still lack the power to carry out this function as the Freedom of Information Act grants the media no specific freedom other than the right to freedom of expression enjoys by every citizen.
Also, there exist several laws that have negative effect on the functions of the media. Among these are the Official Secrets Act, Sections of the Criminal Code Act and the Defamation Act. The Freedom of Information Acts also contains several sections that increase the chances of non disclosure of information.
High incidence of poverty has made many journalists to seek for financial gratification before they perform their duty. Adesina (2008) reasoned that this group of journalists/media houses often tilts stories to favour those who have compromised them. They deliberately leave out the other side, or give the preferred side more prominence. They do bad jobs, writing and reporting deliberate untruth stories. Media watchers according to Sowumi et al (2010), have lamented that under pressure of ’envelope’ journalism, media houses have found themselves putting under carpet, important stories which would have unearthed and fought against acts of corruption. Owners of media houses most especially the privately owned media often interfere with free reporting of corruption cases where such involve their highly placed friend in public or private sector.

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.
Some of the critical issues that will enhance the role of media in curbing corruption are as follows:
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, Nigerian 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.
For the media to assess anti-corruption efforts critically and independently they must possess adequate technical, legal, economic and other expertise. Training, awareness-raising and technical briefing of media personnel in anti-corruption efforts may also be useful.
Passage of Freedom of Information Bill is not enough; efforts need to be made to reverse this act to suite public needs. This will give legal cover to the media’s contributions towards the anti-corruption campaign.

The media should be encouraged to develop and enforce adequate standards of conduct regarding their professional competence and their objectivity so that they would avoid any temptations of accepting gifts, envelopes, fare or any other support that would interfere with their free reporting.
It is essential to raise awareness on the part of the media of the causes, costs, levels, types and locations of corruption in the country, as well as to explain the on-going efforts of all stakeholders against corruption.
Moreover, training in investigative journalism as area of specialisation is imperative for journalist in the war against corruption.

REFERENCES
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