|REPORTING SECURITY IN A DEMOCRATIC SETTING
ATE, ASAN ANDREW
A paper delivered on 18th November, 2011 @ the National Conference /AGM of the Institute of Mass Communication & Information Management of Nigeria (IMIM). Owena Motels, Akure, Ondo State.
Security which connotes protection from harm and injury, is one the critical issues in any democratic setting. Media practitioners in Africa have been battling with the art and science of security reporting in the continent, which has been ravaged by a catalogue of security challenges. This paper takes a look at essentials of security reporting in a democratic setting within the Nigerian context. This study uses library research method as data collection was purely based on secondary materials. The paper also makes candid recommendations for improvement of security reporting in Nigeria.
Keywords: Reporting, Security and Democracy.
To appreciate this discourse, it is very important for us to start with operational definitions of key concepts . Reporting as used in this context ,means an account of events covered or investigated by newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Security has to do with protecting or safeguarding the lives and properties of the citizenry. Democracy as you all know, is popularly defined as government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Journalism as a profession has as its main activity, the coverage of events looking at the who, what, when, where why and how of an event. Journalism exist in different media- Newspapers, magazines, television, radio and recently, the World Wide Web through the internet.
The digital age has brought about significant changes in news reporting. Dominick (2009, pp.301-304) captures some factors that characterize news reporting in digital age. More Sources Of News : The internet has increased in the number of available news sources e.g. (1) General news site such as CNN. Com or
Usatoday. com. (2) News aggregators, such as Google or yahoo. Com; (3) Specialized news sites such as ESPN for sports news and Wall Street Journal’s web for financial news and (4) blogs
The Converged Journalists: The convergence reporter is one who can write stories for a print medium or a website, shoot and post photos online, and a video reports as well. In short, the print journalist and the video journalist have converged to produce the 21st - century version of the news correspondent.
Blogs: Blogs represent another source of news, the one that is free from economic, corporate, political or advertising considerations. Morsels of news of interest to a small group of people that would otherwise go unreported go into blogs. Blogs have an agenda- setting effect as they can concentrate the attention of traditional media on selected events and keep those events in the news cycle. They provide a check on the traditional media and represent an additional outlet for reporters to explain why they reported a story the way they did. Blogs have made it possible for everybody to be a news person and have opened the way for what is being labeled citizen journalism.
Citizen Journalism: This is a news trend that makes it possible for ordinary citizens to become amateur reporters. The trend was made possible by the development of easy – to – use digital and cell phone video cameras and high speed internet access. Citizen journalism often reports on news items of interest to a relatively small number of people, a trend labeled hyperlocal news
Hyperlocal News: Hyperlocal is one of those emerging terms that has a wide range of use. Generally, hyperlocal coverage concentrates on the stories, no matter how small, of a particular community, or zip code or interest group in a defined geographical area. Most, but not all, hyperlocal coverage can be found on websites. The journalist who reports hyperlocal news has to be skilled is several areas: writing, videos, audio and photography. In short, they provide yet another example of convergence.
New Tools: Today’s reporter can sit at his or her desk and instantly access documents, databases, government records, and expert sources. In short, journalists can now bring to their desks information they used to previously go out to look for. In order to make the most use of this new tool, however, reporters must learn new skills . These skills are lumped under the term computer- assisted reporting. It is therefore imperative for security reporters to track the trends in reporting so as to discharge their fundamental responsibility to the society.
Theoretical frame work
This study is built on the gate keeping concept of the press.
Gate Keeper’s Theory
According to Akinfeleye (2007, p.45) , the “gatekeeper’s “theory” is not a “theory” in the true sense of the word. Rather, it is a typology, that is to say, a way of looking at something “ In line with Akinfeleye’s assertion, McQuail (2005) cited in Akinfeleye (2007, p. 45) contends that the term “ gatekeeping” has been widely used as a metaphor to describe the process by which media selections are made in media work, especially decisions regarding whether or not to allow a particular news report to pass through the “GATE” of news into the news channels and, finally, to the general public.
The term “gatekeeper” as reasoned by Nweke ( 2007, p.2) was “ probably, first used by the Austrian psychologists, Kurt Lewin, in 1951 and later in 1958, to describe those personnel who controlled food channels within groups during the world war 11” Later, he argued that the term was used to describe those who controlled the relay of news in the communication channel.
The concept of gatekeeping as advanced by Ishiekwene (2007, p.12) “suggest that not all information that gets to a newspaper house, can make the news. And not all information that makes the news deserves equal treatment. There is need for someone to stand as a watch, a moral conscience, to filter what gets published, and how” There lies the job of an editor.
The question at stake now is, who is a gatekeeper? Akpan (2006, p.77) defines a gatekeeper as “ a person who by selecting, changing and rejecting messages can influence the flow of information to a receiver or group of receivers”
The gatekeeper’s choice concerning what information to select or reject according to Akpan (2006,p.77) is influenced by many variables:
First is ethics- it is an ethical judgment that determines what is “fair.” Both personal and professional ethics (that is the extent of the gatekeeper’s awareness of his or her beliefs) will influence whether the gatekeeper’s likes or dislikes, attitudes and interests play a part in news selection.
Second is economics –most mass media in our country are profit making. To this end, advertisers or sponsors may have a major impact on news selection and editorials.
Third is competition among the media –with many media available, competition is likely to raise the overall level of professionalism, thus ensuring a more objective presentation of information.
Fourth are legal restrictions such as libel, slander, etc which will affect news selection and dissemination.
Fifth, deadlines affect the depth as well as the time available to determine accuracy of news selected.
The sixth is the news value- the intensity of a news item in comparison with others. (for example, if the personality involved in a story is the President, definitely, the gatekeeper will accommodate the story and forego the others).
Mass Media And Democracy.
The mass media have tremendous influence on diverse issues in the society. Looking at the role of the media with particular emphasis on democracy, Ekpu (2007,p.14) highlights:
The effectiveness of the media in discharging the above functions according to him depends on: quality of the media personnel, ownership, poverty level, ethnicity, civil society, professionalism, ethical orientation of the media, religion, influences on the media such as powerful groups, advertisers and public relations people.
To keep the people informed so that they can make good political choices and participate in the process of nation building.
To provide critical information by updating the public on political candidates and issues that are relevant to their existence.
To set agenda for the public by highlighting such issues as human rights, rule of law, protection of minorities and other marginalized groups, corruption and development.
Sambe (2005, p.226) argues that the number one task of the mass communicator is “recording history” He added that the instantaneous nature of mass communication also empowers “communicators in doing more than recording history. They are helping to shape it:”
The mass media have a lot of influence on issues relating to governance. Nzimiro (1988) confirms this assertion:
In any given society, the role of the state is to mediate amongst different interests such as trade unions, student unions, the academic staff unions, church organization, etc. each of these groups have their own interests. The state is to mediate and ensure that the interests of these various groups are looked into. The press in such society is supposed to articulate the interest of each section and to defend their interest, to remind the controller of the state power that justice as spelt out in the law of the land, is melted out to each group. Here, the journalists play the role to ensure that no section or group is hurt.
Ate (2008) firmly asserts that the importance of the mass media in the art of governance cannot be underestimated. McQuail (2005,p.234) provides a roadmap of the variety of forms of governance that apply to the media.
Beyond governance, the press has indomitable powers in influencing economic decision of the society.
The protection of essential interest of the state and of public order, including the prevention of public harm;
The safeguarding of individual rights and interests;
Meeting the needs of the media industry for a stable and supportive operating environment
Promotion of freedom and other communication and cultural variables;
Encouraging technological innovation and economic enterprise;
Setting technical and infrastructural standards;
Meeting international obligations, including observance of human rights, and
Encouraging media accountability.
Daramola (2003, p.32) avers that the media both is structure and content have an intricate relationship with the economy in its geographical location. He contends that without the media, society’s economic life is bound to suffer. He acknowledged the influence of the press for its direct contribution to the Gross National Product (GNP) through its impact on productivity and employment. That aside, the influence of the media can also be appreciated from economic axis for the volume of advertising which they handle and series of economic activities with which they exposed their audiences to, almost simultaneously
The mass media have direct or direct influence on a social force on a person and a thing. That explains the social effect of the media in the society
One of the basic assumptions about the media according to Ate (2008, p.81) is that “the mass media have an overwhelming influence on people’s lives and sometimes change their beliefs and opinions. This subtle influence or impact on the audience is what is referred to as effect.”
Mc Quail (2005, p.456) highlights in pragmatic terms, the concept of social change effects of the media:
We dress for the weather as forecast, buy something because of an advertisement, go to a film mentioned in a newspaper, react in countless ways to the media news, to films, to music on radio and so on. Good or bad economic news clearly affects business and consumer confidence
Talking the above view into account, it is apt to state that the mass media can provoke change in the society in the area of security reporting if well handled
1.4 Security and the Nigerian mass media
The Nigerian mass media are daily bombarded with security events which are reported by our print and broadcast journalists. Nigerian democracy is threatened by robust security challenges like kidnappings, armed robbery, ritual killings, ethic skirmishes, bombing, and unwanted destruction of lives and properties among others. The number one and latest architect of insecurity in Nigeria is Boko Haram, a terrorist sect whose overt and convert activities in the land have threatened the very foundation of the present democratic experiment. No day passes in Nigeria without a security oriented story serving as a lead in the nation’s media firmament. Indeed our government of the people, for the people and by the people has been terribly buffeted by daunting security assaults, thus affecting our national security
National security because of its importance in this discourse deserves more attention. Experts describe national security as the collective security of the person or the political party. Nzimiro (1988), Gambo (1999) and Akinfeleye (2007).
Gwarzo (1998) sees national security as freedom from hunger, freedom from threat to a nation’s inability to protect and defend itself, promote its cherished values and interest and enhance the well being of its people. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary captures the term national security as “state of being secure, freedom from fear, protection, measure taken to guard against espionage or sabotage, crime, attack or escape. Former Nigeria’s president, Olusegun Obasanjo once described national security as a force that would strengthen Federal Republic of Nigeria, advance her interest and objectives; control crime, eliminate corruption, enhance genuine development, progress and growth and improve the welfare, wellbeing and quality of life of the citizenry,
As good as the concept of national security is, it is grossly bastardized in Nigeria. Niworu ( 2011.p.77 ) contends that so many things are wrong with the Nigerian State. According to him,” the economy, the polity, the legal system, education, diplomacy, cultural, moral, religious and family values are clamoring for reforms.”
He argued that government exists for the common good of the society but regretted that the reverse in the case in Nigeria “where endemic poverty exist side by side with chronic illiteracy and where complete lack of government presence is visible in most communities.”
*** Security Challenges
The Commandant –General of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSDC), Dr. Ade Abolurin argues that contemporary Security challenges facing the country arising from terrorist attacks orchestrated by religious militants- Boko Haram, unabated kidnapping in the South-South and South East regions by army of jobless youths, perennial inter-ethnic conflicts and frequent reports of armed robbery in other parts of the country, have called for the restructuring of the national security architecture (Abolurin, 2011)
The restructuring will not be meaningful if the mass media dimension is jettisoned. The media houses and media practitioners in the country are also under serious attack. On April 26, 2011, Suicide bombers killed eight people in bomb explosion at This Day’s Office Abuja as well as The Sun and Moments building in Kaduna. The fourth estate of the realm is a victim of terrorist attack in Nigeria today. The mother of security challenges in Nigeria at preventing in terrorism. This menace is conceptualized by Niworu (2011) as the “unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with intention of intimidating or coercing society or government, often for ideological and political reasons”.
Terrorism is hate driven and politically driven. It is caused by many factors like breakdown in the family, instability in education system, economic problem, religious and political influence, peer group influence as well as ethnic militancy
In Nigeria, the mass media according to Umuerri and Galadima (2011), discharge its duties of informing, educating and entertaining the people through different journalistic genres like news items, opinion articles, features, editorials etc. While this approach remains acceptable, they argued that it has become seemingly difficult to rely whole heartedly on this patterns especially on vexed issue of terrorist acts in Nigeria
In a recent study conducted by Udoudo and Diriyai (2011,p.66) the following issues of terrorism were investigated:
Definition of terrorism by Nigerian media
It was discovered that the Nigerian media looked at terrorism as “bomb throwing/ shooting perpetrated by hopeless youths in the society and an act inimical to growth and development. It was discovered also that the Nigerian media practitioners lack a forum to share ideas on definition of terrorism and that the issue was not encapsulated in their editorial policies
To what extent are Nigerian media concerned about terrorism?
The study discovered that both print and broadcast media in Nigeria have not allocated specific space and airtime for the coverage of terrorism issues
Impediments to mass media reportage of terrorism in Nigeria.
The study identifies impediment to coverage of terrorism events in the country. These are: lack of research and investigation on terrorists, people’s reluctance to supply information on terrorists, fear of being attacked by terrorists, censorship for fear of heating up the polity, reluctance of security agencies to volunteer information” sectionalism, self censorship arising from fear of victimization, poor remuneration, lack of insurance policy for journalists; security threats and lack of access to the terrorist event
1.6 Security Reporting
Security reporting is a challenging task in a democratic setting. The reporter must have security intelligence, patriotic spirit and the basic skills of writing for the mass media. Understanding of security terminologies, ability to effectively communicate with the audience, social literacy among other factors are needed in effective security reporting
The security reporter must have the following attributes to excel in a democratic atmosphere;
Good education and training. The training should cut across journalism and security issues
Inquisitiveness. The willingness and capacity to scan the environment and react to things around is necessary. He must have thirst for knowledge and aspire to know everything in his beat.
Nose for news. This is a special ability to recognize news worthy events
Personality and tact. This has to do with a pleasant comportment to enable people have confidence in him. He must be physically and professionally admirable. He must be friendly and informal in approach and must have a sound knowledge of psychology and sociology so as to understand people, their behaviours and the environment
Nerve. A good security reporter must have courage and high dosage of tactfulness and fearlessness. He should not be a Lilly- livered being
Integrity. This has to do with uprightness and undiluted honesty. He must be trustworthy. A good security reporter must always be dressed with garments of integrity which are: sense of responsibility, independent approach, accuracy, sincerity, impartiality, and decency.
Above all, the security reporter must do his job with decorum and within democratic boundaries
It has been discovered in the course of this paper that though the Nigerian security reporters are doing their job, their best is yet to be seen because they have failed to do certain things that are needed for professional excellence. They lack training in security matters and fail to appreciate the dynamics of a democratic environment. Security issues are not well accommodated in the editorial policies of the Nigerian mass media. Again, there is little or no emphasis on security reporting in the mass communication departments of our universities as their curriculum on specialized reporting place high premium on science and technology, business and economics, sports and little crime reporting, which under normal circumstances should be an integral part of security reporting.
The way out of this professional cross roads is desirable and in evitable
The following recommendations are necessary to achieve a holistic success in security reporting in our democratic firmament:
Training and re-training of reporters in all shades and nuances of security issues.
A workable, genuine and effective synergy between Journalists and security agents for exchange of security information. The blame shifting game that exits for now is unacceptable and retrogressive. Chief of Army staff, Lt Ihejirika on July 21, 2011 urged Journalist to endeavour to give intelligence report to the Army. Contrastingly, Journalists on their own part blamed non- release of security reports by security agents as one of the impediments to their optimal performance.
There is urgent need for inclusion of security issues in the editorial policies of the Nigeria mass media. The Security beat should be made special and reporters should be exposed to national and international workshops to keep themselves abreast of security developments across international frontiers.
Reporters should always cross- check their facts and do proper investigation before reporting Security issues
Security is technology - driven in digital age. Journalists should be well equipped with sophisticated digital gadgets that would assist in discharging their constitutional responsibilities to the society.
There is urgent need to review the training curriculum in Journalism institutions especially our Universities offering Mass Communication to accommodate security intelligence and other necessary skills to prepare potential reporters for challenges in the area of security reporting
Positive developmental and citizen Journalism should be emphasissed by Nigeria security reporters with a view to fostering national unity, national interest and national cohesion.
Attractive incentives should be given to security reporters by way of better remuneration, adequate insurance cover and conducive working environment.
A highly hybrised and more integrated media approach should be used by security reporters to anoint the destiny of security reporting in Nigeria. In this model, traditional, conventional and digital media should be converged for the betterment of security Journalism in the country. Newspapers and community radio in predominant local languages can be used by reporters in conjunction with conventional and interactive media to raise the security consciousness of the Nigerian populace.
The nitty-gritty of the anti terrorism bill passed by the Federal Government on June 1, 2022 and other Security oriented bills should be well studied by security reporters in the country. Where there are anomalies, the mass media can, as part of their social responsibility, draw the attention of relevant stakeholders. Umeurri and Galadima (2011) listed the roles of Journalist under terrorist act as that of motivation, public enlightenment and social responsibility.
Enough time, space should be given to coverage of terrorism stories. Above all, the Nigerian media should, through their reportage “recruit” every Nigerian to rise against security threats in the country irrespective of tribe, religion and sex. The best time to achieve the above is now and we must start today. A nation with a population of 167 million must deploy all it has to bind demons of insecurity polluting our collective national heritage.
Atte is of the Department Of Mass Communication, Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Ikeji-Arakeji, Osun State.
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