Journalism or public relations?
What are we saying?
What are we writing?
If it avoids the critical topics of the society, it’s not journalism. If it is not willing to step on toes, it is public relations. George Orwell said it all by defining it as a profession which prints what others don’t want to be printed. All others connote public relations.
It’s no longer news in the public space that a Premium Times’ journalist, Samuel Ogundipe, has been secretly arraigned after an arrest by the Nigerian police force under the command of Ibrahim Idris. Samuel was arrested for not disclosing the source of a news piece. Jones Abiri, another journalist was just granted a conditional bail after two years. With all these events, I think we should make public relations more prominent since our society and authorities are not ready to promote the profession, whose impacts on democracy cannot be underestimated.
Many journalists have been victims of the tyrannical tendencies of the security operatives and public office holders in Nigeria. While Samuel’s case caught the media attention probably because of the newspaper he reports for, Abiri and many others are not so lucky. They have been the sacrificial lambs. Then I feel, if we all become spokespersons, the society will be free from press attacks since everyone and every sector want only their good deeds to be reported.
Is it not easy to then conclude that our society is against the provisions of the Nigerian constitution if what we actually do is to sing praises of the agencies, government officials and establishments? After all, Section 22 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution charged the media with the responsibility of holding authorities accountable at all times.
For the Constitution to back up all journalistic activities, then the ethics of the profession is also recognized. But to my utmost surprise, the society we are is a complicated one, where you file lawsuits against someone carrying out his/her constitutional duties.
As stated in the ethics of journalism by the Nigerian Press Council, a journalist should observe the universally accepted principle of confidentiality and should not disclose the source of information obtained in confidence, and should not breach an agreement with a source of information obtained as “off-the-record” or as “background information. But I was taken aback when the coercion by the Police to get the source of a news article was reported. To the extent of detaining such reporter and was eventually docked. Shame!
Just like Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, an Indian politician and social reformer, stated; “If I find the constitution being misused, I shall be the first to burn it.”
It is so pathetic that the credibility of a news story is no longer adjudged by the truth value but by the disclosure of the sources involved in getting the reports. This can never be intended for the public good but to satisfy selfish interests. If the system, meant to uphold the laws of the nation, is the one culpable of constitutional faults then it is as good as burning the constitution that empowers them. That amounts to leasing out an apartment to anarchy.
We have always attacked this from the poor masses’ point of view. We maintain the mentality of the oppressed because the Press freedom, we are not sure of, despite the provisions of our constitution that empower and justify all journalistic activities.
It’s a good development that some individuals and civic organisations have joined in the cry to uphold the tenets embedded in the constitution but let us take these beyond the confines of social media and online platforms. Abiri was arraigned yesterday, Samuel today, who knows the next victim of this constitutional aberration?
Alfred Olufemi is a student journalist from Obafemi Awolowo University, he is best reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.