PRINT MEDIA OBJECTIVITY AND JOURNALISTIC ETHICS (A CASE STUDY OF STATE-PRESS RELATIONS IN AKWA IBOM STATE)
PROBLEM AND ITS SETTING
One important issue that keeps on resonating in journalism practice the world over is state-press relations. That is, relationship between the state and the press. The state here is always represented by the government or persons in authority. It is the duty of the journalist to educate, entertain, inform and provide public enlightenment and opinion to the audience and moreso, evaluate government policies and programmes.
The print medium, in the midst of mass media helps tremendously in the dissemination and analysis of these information and policies of the government to the large heterogeneous audience. Print medium is also the target of this study because of its noticeable form as a medium of mass dissemination of information. Until recently in Akwa Ibom State, it was government’s broadcast media that held the beam of information dissemination in Akwa Ibom State. From the foregoing, it’s a common knowledge that he who pays the piper calls or dictates the tune to a greater extent. Therefore, the print media establishments by individuals in Akwa Ibom State are not only time but the best to a democratic setting like the case in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State. The conviction for the foregoing is predicted on the fact that for democracy to flourish, certain democratic principles such as freedom to express oneself should be upheld.
It is on this note that Article 19 of the University Declaration of human rights empowers everyone with the right to freedom of expression and to hold opinions without interferences and to seek, receive and impact ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers will be stressed.
1.2 Background of the study
The above which Nigerian is a signatory is in supplement to the provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in its various designations, which also calls for such like rights of granting freedom of expression, to receive and impact ideas and information without interference.
Probably overwhelmed by the above provisions, many journalists in Akwa Ibom State seem to practice the journalism profession in absolute some control measures, some of which are legal, economic and ethical control.
Local control is the law regulating journalism practice. Economic control is often exercised through foreign exchange for spare parts and newsprint as well as market response. And the crux of this study; ethical control has been made to rest with the professionals, and it is usually expressed in the code of ethics for the practice of journalism which may be international, national or regional. It is ethical control in the regional practice of journalism that informed this study, the topic: “Print Media Objectivity and Journalism Ethics: A study of State-press relations in Akwa Ibom State.
The argument lies on the fact that in the press reportage and evaluation of government policies and programmes, certain ethical issues must be considered. Likewise, the state to which the journalist evaluates its activities should provide a conducive environment for the flow of information, as this will allow for development. It is on the basis of the foregoing that Nigerian Press Organization’s code of conduct as applicable in Akwa Ibom State is replicated below to aid the study.
Code of conduct of Nigerian Press Organization Preamble
- Abuses of the rights of the press are punishable by law. Indeed, the law of Libel, civil as well as criminal and the law of contempt, deal adequately with such abuse.
- Any abuse of the rights of the press, therefore, cannot be the objective of declaration.
- But experience has shown many lapses in the practice of the profession and it has for long become apparent that as code of conduct must be established among practicing journalists themselves, if they must fulfill their true functions and if a standard below which journalists may not be expected to fall may be laid down.
It is pursuance of these objectives that we hereby solemnly declare:
- That the public is entitled to the truth and that only correct information can form the basis for sound journalist and ensure the confidence of the people.
- That it is the moral duty of every journalist to have respect for the truth and to publish or prepare for publication only the truth and to be best of his knowledge
- That it is the duty of the journalist to publish only facts, never to suppress such facts as he knows, never to falsify either to suit his own purposes or any other purposes.
- That it is the duty of the journalist to refuse any reward for publishing or suppressing news or comments, other than salary and allowance legitimately earned in the discharge of his professional duties.
- That the journalist shall employ all legitimate means in the collection of news and he shall defend at all times the right to free access, provided that due regard is paid to the privacy of individuals.
- That once information has been collected and published, the journalist shall observe the universally accepted principle of secrecy and shall not disclose the source of information obtained in confidence.
- That it is the duty of every journalist to correct any published information to be incorrect.
The above amidst others like the Nigerian union of journalist’s code of conduct are some of the recorded ethical measures of journalism practice in Akwa Ibom State as the context of this study. As earlier stated, the issue is that while government feels that is logical to restrain the power of the press and if possible, have a total control, the press fights fiercely to resist this stance government wants to subject it. In the face of these and many other challenges, the question is if the journalist in Akwa Ibom State is still objective and ethical in his coverage of news and events in Akwa Ibom State, especially news event that have to do with evaluating government policies and programme.
1.3 Statement of the Problem
It is the duty of the journalist to serve the political system by making information, discussion and consideration of public affairs accessible. It is also his/her place to inform the public to enable it (the public) to take self-determined action as well as to protect the rights of the individuals by acting as watchdog over the government.
Therefore, journalism practice is not only aimed at ordering the society but keep the citizens abreast with government policies. It is the quest to serve the citizens and society through information dissemination that certain sour relationship crops up to constrain journalism practice.
This study would give us the insight as to what extents the Akwa Ibom State journalist practice its professional duties. It will find out if journalists in Akwa Ibom State practice within the confines of the ethics of the profession. And above all, this study seeks to find out the problem