Africa viewpoint: Crooked journalists?

 
Nigerians at a news stand in Delta state (April 2011)

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Nigerian writer Sola Odunfa laments the erosion of moral values among the media - the supposed custodians of democracy.

There was once a saying in the US that no person was worse than a crooked cop.

The thinking behind the phrase was that crime of whatever scale would thrive in a community where the police were corrupt.

This is something that keeps popping up in my mind when I read reports of revolting criminal acts and petty corruption in my country.

They are so prevalent.

Start Quote

A hungry man is an angry man. A hungry journalist is a dangerous person”

End Quote Dora Akunyili Nigeria's former information minister

In recent weeks, international media coverage has been dominated by the unethical and criminal methods used by some journalists in the UK to obtain social and political information for publication.

They hacked into mobile phones and unlawfully retrieved information from the personal records of law-abiding citizens.

The offending journalists worked for the UK's largest-selling newspaper, News of The World, part of US citizen Rupert Murdoch's worldwide media empire.

The newspaper has since been closed down by the owners as a result of public outrage.

We are not talking of occasional breaches of the law and professional ethics.

The UK parliament has heard that the number of cases being investigated is at least 4,000, with victims said to include the royal family.

If proven, the journalists and their employer would have violated a sacred trust on which democracy is built - respecting a person's right to privacy and dignity.

Moral backbone

In the face of the scandal, a Nigerian may ponder whether the domestic media is helping the country's fledgling democracy to grow.

A protester in London, with placards of Rupert Murdoch and police Media mogul Rupert Murdoch and top policemen are under fire in the UK

Officials take pride in pointing out that Nigeria has a large number of newspapers and radio and TV stations, but everyone shies away from assessing the moral quality of the media and its journalists.

One should not compare a crooked cop to a crooked journalist, but there is much food for thought in a speech given last year by then-Nigerian Minister of Information Dora Akunyili.

Speaking at the opening of the new headquarters for The Punch newspaper in the commercial capital, Lagos, she pointed out that many media organisations in Nigeria owed their journalists several months' salaries.

Ms Akunyili said there could be no freedom without money.

"A hungry man is an angry man. A hungry journalist is a dangerous person," she said.

"You cannot expect a hungry journalist to shun blackmail or to be fair in the presentation of facts, he is dangerous to democracy."

I do not know who is more dangerous to the Nigerian nation - a hungry journalist or a hungry cop.

Both undermine democracy.

We have them aplenty.

This is the issue Nigerians have to tackle as boldly as the British, to sort out the chaff in the media.

 

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 17.

    Akpan: Generational and personality changes; had one time or the other, been tested within the last 50 years of the ‘self rule’. Provisions of best infrastructures are not necessarily an indication of good governance or corrupt free society, but better orientation and attitudes towards governance. Violence in Middle Eastern countries will suffice. We the followers must shape our destiny. 

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    Comment number 16.

    ABBEY: Again, I concede that the "saints" waiting in the wings might turn out to be just as crooked (if not worse) than the previous/current lot, but if the latter can't give us grid electricity or pipe-borne water after 50 years of "self-rule," they never will. So, the choice is between remaining their eternal fools, or taking a risk for change.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 15.

    TO: Akpan: No one ever subscribes to, or willingly surrenders his/her sovereignty to crooks. Power is never freely given on the basis of being called a saint. Unfortunately, since, no one has a monopoly of knowledge, a change agent must be ready to face the challenges of high handed resistance and In the process of managing the change; the saint also becomes a crook. So where do we go from there.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 14.

    No one ever subscribe to, or willingly submit his sovereignty to crooks or saints. Power is never freely given on the basis of being called a saint, Unfortunately, Since, no one has a monopoly of knowledge, a change agent must must be ready to face the challenges of high handed resistance aand In the process of managing the change, the saint also becomes a crook. So where do we go from there.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 13.

    ABBEY: Agreed, corruption/politics are closely linked in every society, but it's a question of scale, isn't it? Hence, at one end, you have the most advanced economy on earth, and at the other, one with no electricity/pipe-borne water. But the logic of your position is to preserve the present band of crooks, while mine is to give others a chance. Can't be worse than the present lot, can they?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 12.

    To Akpan: pledges remain pledges until they are fulfilled. All politician seeking elections made them. However, pledges alone can not win elections, without the support of those corrupt capitalists, who equally control the press, the economy, and the political land scape of the country. When you win, they ask for their returns. If you don't believe me, ask President Obama and David Cameron.


  • rate this
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    Comment number 11.

    The issue of journalists not being honest in their reporting is not surprising. The general problems of a nation cuts across all sectors.

 

Comments 5 of 17

 

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