THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE NIGERIAN MASS MEDIA IN THE LIBERIAN CONFLICT
This research focuses on the involvement of the Nigerian mass media in the Liberian conflicts. The Nigerian mass media like every other information media is involved in the gathering, evaluating and distributing of facts about current issues, this was the case in the civil war in Liberia which Nigerian journalist greatly impacted. Throughout the crisis independent press played a critical role in reporting the unpredicted military campaigns and consequences. the Nigeria press also took a leading role in criticizing the military and its activities and in fact campaign in favour of an end to military rule and the establishment of constitutional rule.
Most of the period of conflict the Nigeria press was antagonist, to Samuel Doe and to the federal Government of Nigeria, while they had mixed feelings and reservations towards Charles Taylor. The press wondered at the obvious sympathy of the federal Government with the government of Samuel Doe. So while the federal government tried to use its various media houses to whip-up sentiments for embattled Samuel Doe, other private media houses and some state Newspaper criticized Samuel Doe for provoking the civil war, and that he (Doe) should sum-up courage to relinquish his position as Head of state for peace to return to Liberia. For that, it was to pay an even dearer price after the transition collapsed and a new wave of repression was unleashed.
In journalism, reporters research and write stories for print and electronic distribution often with the guidance of editors or producers. The earliest journalists produced their stories for news sheets, circulars, newspapers, and periodicals. They provide commentary on politics, economics, and arts and culture, and sometimes include entertainment features, such as comics and crossword puzzles. The press in Nigeria has remained a diverse, outspoken institution, regardless of whether an elected government or a military regime is in power. It has sought to act as a check on those in authority, but its effectiveness has sometimes been vitiated by governmental legislation, by ethnic, religious and political influences, by its own economic vulnerability, and by the inadequacies of the men and women who report and comment on the news.
Background of the Study
The mass media involves gathering, evaluating, and distributing facts of current interest. In journalism, reporters research and write stories for print and electronic distribution often with the guidance of editors or producers.1 The earliest journalists produced their stories for news sheets, circulars, newspapers, and periodicals. With technological advances, journalism came to include other media, such as radio, documentary or newsreel films, television, and the Internet. Newspaper publications are usually issued on a daily or weekly basis, the main function of which is to report news. Many newspapers also furnish special information to readers, such as weather reports, television schedules, and listings of stock prices.2 They provide commentary on politics, economics, and arts and culture, and sometimes include entertainment features, such as comics and crossword puzzles. In nearly all cases and in varying degrees, newspapers depend on commercial advertising for their income.
The Development of the Nigerian Press
Next to printing, journalism is perhaps the oldest of the modern occupations or professions in Nigeria.3 There were indigenous newspapermen before there were indigenous ordained priests and doctors in Nigeria and there were even Nigerian newspapers before the geographical entity called Nigeria formally came into being in 1914.4 The newspaper press began tentatively in Nigeria in 1859, but it took off in earnest in the 1880s as an instrument of protest by educated Africans denied participation in the governance of the British colony. “The press assumed the role of opposition and sought to rival the government, encouraging political awareness and involvement by providing a means of criticism of the authorities and spreading disaffection with official plans and policies.”5 The most notable paper of this era, the Lagos Weekly Record, was "a determined agent in the propagation of racial consciousness”6 as well as “an arsenal of ideas” for critics and opponents of government.7
The introduction of democratic elections on the basis of the Clifford Constitution in 1922 added a significant dimension to the role of newspapers, which now became outlets for electoral mobilization and instruments in the fierce campaign against British colonial rule. The first Nigerian daily paper, the Lagos Daily News, was established in this era of electoral politics in 1925.8 The following year, the editorship passed to Herbert Macaulay, widely regarded as the father of Nigerian nationalism.
Although the subsequent decade was a rather placid one for the Nigerian media as it was dominated commercially by the foreign-owned and pro-government Daily Times founded in 1926.9 The vacuum was finally filled in 1937 when Nnamdi Azikiwe launched the West African Pilot. The militantly anti colonialist, anti-imperialist stance of the Pilot and its concepts of news made the newspaper an instant success now impetus to the agitation for independence.10 Subsequently, Azikiwe founded other newspapers across the country, thereby establishing Nigeria’s first newspaper chain.11 By the 1940s, the Pilot had become Nigeria's most outstanding and influential nationalist newspaper and Azikiwe, the dominant figure in Nigerian journalism. On the founding of the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) in 1944, Azikiwe also became one of the dominant figures in Nigerian politics. The Pilot served as his platforms.12
Another newspaper chain was formed in 1957 when the Daily Service, organ of the defunct Nigerian Youth Movement, merged with the Nigerian Tribune founded eight years earlier to form the Amalgamated Press, ultimately encompassing eight newspapers sponsored by another of Nigeria's major nationalist political parties, the Action Group (AG).13 These newspapers were launched chiefly for publicity in the crucial national election of 1959 that was to lead to Nigeria's independence from Britian.14 Thus, as Golding and Elliott put it, "Nigerian journalism was created by anti-colonial protest, baptized in the waters of nationalist propaganda and matured in party politics"1
The party press persisted in Nigeria through the First and the Second Republics in the form of newspapers owned and controlled by political parties or active politicians, or as publicly-financed newspapers that supported and publicized the activities of the government. Hachten found the Nigerian press of 1960-65 in many ways a unique phenomenon for black Africa: diverse, outspoken, competitive and irreverent. While opposition newspapers were silenced elsewhere and one-party conformity imposed, he wrote, "the Nigerian press was almost unfettered"16 Yet, the-newspapers were highly politicized and often "locked in a vicious combat" during major political crises and election campaigns; indeed, Fred Omu writes, "the newspaper press provided a remarkable example of overzealous and irresponsible partisanship and recklessness"17
The prominent nationalist editor and politician Anthony Enahoro was even more scathing in his evaluation of the immediate post-colonial press. The Nigerian press, he said, lacked "men of stature" as well as "the vision to recognize danger and the courage to oppose wrong." Consequently, “it can inspire no confidence, no respect and no following if its role in nation-building is that of sycophants, guilty of unquestioning deferential support for rulers…flamboyant praise for mediocrity... popularizing excesses and impropriety, afraid to pronounce against wrong and guilty of a craven desire to bat on any winning side.”18
These ailments of opportunism and sycophancy were just as manifest more than a decade later in the press of the Second Republic (1979-83). Press performance in the election campaigns that restored democratic government was unprincipled and tainted with ethnic bias. In the Second Republic, the press found nothing intrinsically right or wrong: it all depended on the political coloration of the actor and the commentator. At numerous points of conflict and controversy in the particularly “the crisis following the 1979 presidential election, the Shugaba Darman deportation incident, the disputed appointment of presidential liaison officers in each state, the Maroko land matter involving Chief Awolowo and the 1983 general elections - most newspapers exhibited blatant and predictable partisanship.”19 Opposition newspapers criticized the government endlessly; government-owned newspapers berated opposition leaders ceaselessly. Olatunji Dare observes that “a newspaper could praise an act by a state government controlled by, say, the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and denounce the same act if carried out by the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and vice versa.”20 Enahoro's remark that "whoever and whatever ruined the First Republic did so with the active collaboration and connivance of the greater part of the Nigerian press”21 applied with equal force to the Second Republic.
When the military seized power on 15 January 1966, it moved in contradictory directions with respect to press freedom. On the one hand, it removed all the restrictions and prohibitions that some local government councils had instituted banning the circulation of newspapers sponsored by certain rival political parties and regions. On the other hand, the very first act of the military on assuming power was to suspend the Constitution and proclaim a state of emergency. But the new regime spared sections 24 and 25 dealing with fundamental human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of conscience. This may have been little more than an empty gesture of commitment to fundamental freedoms, for as Elias has pointed out, the emergency decree rendered a decree superior to the constitution, since it made it clear that "nothing shall render any provision of a decree void to any extent whatsoever."22 Future military regimes would follow this precedent.
Under military rule, there was the kind of censorship that editors normally exercise in a time of uncertainty and grave national crisis, but government took no formal steps to abridge the freedom of the press. In fact, Ugboaja's study found that government owned newspapers were as critical as, if not more critical than, some privately-owned newspapers in their positions on sensitive issues. Another Nigerian scholar, Sylvanus Ekwelie, concluded that "even under military rule, there was still enough room for Nigerian editors to inform, lead, criticize and even challenge the government”24 An independent observer concurred, finding the Nigerian press under the military to have, with Kenya, the greatest degree of press freedom in Africa: According to the report, "even with a military junta which always has to look over its shoulder, to see if any young major is coming from behind, Nigeria, where the national press is now virtually government-owned has developed a breed of very independent newspapermen"25
The challenge to the military came in the form of press attacks on corruption and wasteful spending in government, criticism of the conduct of the controversial 1974 census and the Amakiri affair in which a journalist was brutally flogged and his head forcibly shaved on the orders of a state military governor for publishing a truthful story that had “embarrassed” the governor on his birthday. Lateef Jakande, for many years chairman of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, said the Emergency Decree of 1966 "was sufficient to turn the Nigerian press into a captive press." That this had not happened under military rule was "due to the tradition of press freedom which dates from the colonial period, the courage and professional spirit of Nigerian editors and publishers, and the good sense of some of those in authority."27
However, this pattern of surprising military scope for press freedom was to change significantly with the second period of military rule following the breakdown of the Second Republic, ominous signs of a clampdown on the press came shortly after the 31 December 1983 coup. The new head of state, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, still chafing under press allegations that N2.8 billion from the nation's petroleum receipts went missing, during his tenure as Minister for Petroleum Resources during the Obasanjo regime hinted darkly that he would 'tamper' with the freedom of the press. He made good his threat two months later when he promulgated Decree 4 of 1984. Decree 4 made it a crime to publish any report that was inaccurate in any material particular or embarrassed a public official. It allowed for no margin of error, and truth was no defense. Two journalists with the Guardian were convicted and jailed under the decree, which provided for trial by a special tribunal rather than the ordinary courts.28 No further prosecution was conducted under the decree, but it hung menacingly over the Nigerian press until it was abolished 20 months later when Buhari was deposed in a palace coup.
Decree 4 of 1984 was not the first of its kind, however. It had an antecedent in Decree 11 of 1976 which made it a crime to accuse a public officer of corrupt enrichment, if that accusation was false in any material particular. But Decree 4 had a much wider sweep, covering not just false accusations, but reports that embarrassed public officers, even if such reports were true. Besides, prosecutions under Decree 11 were to be conducted by the ordinary courts. The only prosecution begun under the decree was discontinued by the state when the defendant Dr. Obarogie Ohonbamu, publisher of the African Spark, apologized to the authorities.
The abrogation of Decree 4, the release of political detainees and the access to government officials that followed the overthrow of Buhari created a new climate of freedom not only in the press but throughout the country. The establishment of a Political Bureau to organize and conduct a debate on the restoration of democracy signaled what seemed to be a truly sincere commitment by the Babangida government to creating a new social order. Rarely had relations between the press and government been more cordial.
But this relationship was short-lived. In October 1986, Dele Giwa, a leading investigative reporter and editor-in-chief of the weekly newsmagazine Newswatch, was killed in his home by a parcel bomb alleged to have been sent by government agents. Not long thereafter, Newswatch itself was banned for six months, for publishing ahead of government a detailed summary of the Report of the Political Bureau.29 There followed a broad campaign of repression and intimidation against independent forces in civil society.
The abortive coup attempt of 22 April 1990 brought down the full weight of the government on the news media. Two newspapers, the Punch and Lagos News, and a newsmagazine, Newbreed were shut down for several weeks and a number of editors and commentators were detained for up to three months apparently on the orders of the federal government. Some were interrogated and released after a few days. Taking a cue from this campaign of harassment, the Lagos State governor ordered the closure of two newspapers because of their reporting on a clash between police and shopkeepers at the Alalia market in the metropolis. Once again, the press was under siege.30
During the remainder of General Babangida's presidency, the power of the state was reportedly used to punish the press for excessive professional zeal and independence, and to intimidate it from taking its responsibilities seriously. In August 1991, Tony Ikeakanam, editor of the Benin-based Observer, was demoted and transferred for using "an inappropriate photograph" (read unflattering, unsmiling) of the increasingly imperial First Lady, Mrs. Marian Babangida. In October 1991, two Concord Press journalists were arrested in Zaria and detained without charge for two months for criticizing the deportation of William Keeling, a correspondent with the Financial Times of London who had reported on government misappropriation of windfall oil revenues.
On 30 December 1991, a Champion Newspapers correspondent in Katsina State, Felix Durumba, was arrested and subsequently detained for writing a front page crime story that embarrassed the police. Three months later, thousands of copies of the Champion were impounded by security agents for another story embarrassing to the police (alleging the death of a suspect in custody). That same month, March 1992, the editor and deputy editor of the Nigerian Tribune, Fola Olamiti and Victor Antwi were arrested over another story alleging police harassment and coercion of innocent citizens to pay bribes. In early January 1992, the Daily Times deputy editor, Ndaeyo Uko, and managing director, Yemi Ogunbiyi, were dismissed apparently for a front-page story in which Wole Soyinka criticized the government's 'open ballot' system of voting.31 As the Babangida regime was increasingly thrown on the defensive in its final years, its rhetoric toward the press also grew more combative and intimidating. Vice-President Aikhomu and Information Ministers, Alex Akinleye and Sam Oyovbaire repeatedly blasted and berated the press for questioning government intentions, and shadowy organizations such as the 'Third Eye' surfaced (with apparent government sponsorship and backing) to escalate the war of words and psychological pressure on the independent press.
Changing Structure of the Press
The early Nigerian press was essentially a private press. Government involvement in ownership and control began in 1947 when the British colonial authorities in Northern Nigeria set up a newsletter that later metamorphosed into the Nigerian Citizen, to allay fears that the territory was to be ceded to Germany.32 The paper was published-under the auspices of the Northern Region Literacy Agency (NORLA), which later became the Gaskiya Corporation. Nine years later, the Eastern Nigeria Government of Dr. Namdi Azikiwe set up the Eastern Nigeria Outlook. The Action Group (AG) government of Western Nigeria, through an agreement with the Thompson Newspaper Group in Britain set up the Amalgamated Press publishers of a chain of newspapers that generally supported the party and the government.33
In the North, the Citizen became more or less a government owned newspaper, and the ruling Northern Peoples' Congress (NPC) set up the Daily Mail in Kano as the party organ. In 1966, the Citizen was transformed into the New Nigerian. Following the crisis in the ruling Action Group in Western Nigeria, the government of Chief S.L. Akintola launched the Sketch in 1964 as a daily newspaper. Unable to count on the support of the newspapers owned and controlled by the NCNC, the junior party in the ruling coalition at the centre, the Federal Government set up its own organ, the Morning Post and the Sunday Post in 1962. The Outlook did not survive the civil war. These newspapers teetered from one crisis to another until they expired after the civil war. In 1975, the Federal Government took over the New Nigerian and acquired 60% of the equity of the Daily Times.34
Virtually all the states created from the regions in 1966, 1976, and 1991 now have a daily or weekly newspaper owned and run by the governments of those states. Under elected governments, the nation's experience has been that such newspapers virtually party newspapers funded by the government, since there were no distinction between the one and the other. Where the opposition party was strong and substantial as in Kwara State during the Second Republic, and the government-owned newspaper was overtly partisan - as the Nigerian Herald was - the official newspaper alienated large sections of the public and lost authority as well as revenue.
In sheer number, the Nigerian press is dominated by government-owned newspapers. Of more than 30 daily newspapers in the period under review, only six- the Tribune, Vanguard, The Punch, the Guardian, the National Concord, and the Champion - were privately owned. The weekly newsmagazines, among which Newswatch, the African Guardian, the African Concord, this Week, and the Nigerian Economist were the most prominent, were entirely privately owned.
But by and large, it was the privately-owned newspapers and magazines that exerted the most influence on public policy. They were often more critical. When government officials complained about the press, it was these newspapers they had in mind. Circulating nationwide and better produced than the others, they generally attracted more advertising and were or had the potential to become viable commercial propositions. On the other hand, only the Sketch, among the newspapers controlled by state governments, could be judged a commercial success. Others were sustained only by massive government subsidies. Success is a relative term here. The combined daily circulation of all Nigerian newspapers, according to figures supplied by the Nigerian Newspaper Proprietors Association, was less than one million in the early 1990s, in a country with an estimated population of 100 million. Production costs are very high, because most of the materials had and still have to be purchased abroad in foreign currency, against a weak naira. Newsprint is available locally but is always in short supply. Distribution costs are just as high. Pooled distribution has been canvassed, but no serious initiative has been taken.
In several instances, it is the capacity of a publisher to sustain looses continually that sustains a publication. And anyone willing to put up with such losses probably nurses a different motive than a mere desire to disseminate news and information to the public. With so many titles on the newsstand, the Nigerian presses at all times offers a diversity of viewpoints. But the newspapers are serving all kinds of competing interests, and are subjected to all kinds of editorial control, sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly, These influences that are brought to bear on the press may be ethnica1, political, religious, or economic. The New Nigerian, for example, has it as an article of its editorial policy to protect the interests of Northern Nigeria.35 Newspapers owned by Yoruba or Igbo or Hausa proprietors can hardly be expected to be neutral in reporting and commenting upon issues affecting their ethnic groups in significant ways. Powerful advertisers or suppliers of inputs vital to the newspaper industry are often in a position to influence the editorial direction of a newspaper. And when a newspaper is owned by a politician or political party, it will have to reflect the political preferences of its proprietor.
Consequently, while the press usually speaks with the same voice on foreign issues where the pressures of these influences are slight, it rarely does so when it comes to domestic issues. Thus, it does not usually have the impact on public opinion and public policy that it should have under the agenda-setting theory. The responsibility of the press in exposing Systemic abuses has been eroded by ethnic and religious considerations as well. A newspaper that sets out to expose a corrupt public official may find other newspapers vigorously defending the official for no reason other than that the embattled official is from the same ethnic group as the proprietor or editor of the sympathetic newspaper. Of course, it could well be that the crusading newspaper picked on that official in the first instance because the official happens not to be from the same ethnic group as the editor or the proprietor. Thus, it is the courts and special investigation tribunals rather than the press that have uncovered systemic abuses in Nigeria.
For instance, the reporting on Nigeria's alleged membership of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was governed by religious rather than public policy considerations. Newspapers in the Muslim north or sponsored by Muslim proprietors upheld the alleged membership, justifying it on the grounds that Nigeria had long established diplomatic relations with the Holy See and claiming that Nigeria stood to reap huge economic benefits from membership forgetting that the country is secular. Newspapers in the south, or those sponsored by Christian proprietors, insisted that membership in the OIC was a violation of the nation's secular status. Those favouring membership rejoined that a secular state did not have to be indifferent to religion.
Although there were only two political parties during the latter years of the Babangida transition programme, party, ethnic, and religious considerations continued to exert powerful influences on the editorial line and news coverage of newspapers, that undermining not only the impact of the press on public opinion and the public policy process, especially in the domestic sphere, but also its capacity to fulfill its constitutional mandate of upholding the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people. In examining the press during Babangida's transition, it should be noted that it comprised three distinct stages, each stage colouring media behaviour. The first, up to early 1989, witnessed government establishment of the institutions of the transition, with press behavior being, by and large, supportive. The second stage, from 1989 until 1993, was marked by increasing disquiet in the media as to Babangida's commitment to the transition. It witnessed the polarization of the press into pro- and anti-Babangida camps. The third, from 12 June 1993, coincided with the unraveling of the transition and press coverage of the consequences.
For the press, which is essentially political, the transition began innocently enough, and held promises of exciting times. Editors awaited the return of politics with eagerness. Activities of the Political Bureau set up to organize and conduct a political debate received generous coverage in the press. Memoranda to the Bureau were published frequently. The Report of the Bureau and the government’s White Paper on it figured in editorial comments. Copious press attention was also given to the report of the Constitution Review Committee, the Constituent Assembly and the 1989 Constitution that resulted from their work.
The National Electoral Commission was also the focus of media attention. As soon as the Constituent Assembly began sitting, the newspapers reorganized their newsrooms, set up political desks and redesignated some of their staffs as political correspondents. Some newspapers, perhaps as a measure of the importance they attached to the return of political activity, conferred the title of political editor on the head of their political desk. The activities of the 13 political associations that sought official recognition as political parties, their eventual dissolution, the creation of two new political parties -the SDP and the NRC, - the continual postponements and manipulations of the transition process, and of course the election campaigns, were all closely followed and extensively commented upon in the press.
As in the previous two periods of party politics, newspapers revealed their partisan leanings. Some of these influences and leanings were manifest in the period between the lifting of the ban on political activity and the selection of the two political associations seeking official recognition. The People's Solidarity Party, embracing elements of the Second Republic's Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), the Nigerian People's Party (NPP), and the People's Redemption Party (PRP) were given bountiful editorial coverage and endorsement by the Nigerian Tribune, owned by the family of the late UPN leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The Liberal Convention, of which the publisher of the Champion and brothers of the publisher of the Guardian were prominent members, received ample attention in those newspapers. And The Reporter kept alive the name and programme of the Peoples front of Nigeria, of which its publisher (Shehu Musa Yar' Adua) was a founder and leading light. And on the eve of the government's announcement of the two political parties that were expected to emerge from the Electoral Commission’s shortlist of six, these newspapers indicated in one way or another their preferences, based mainly on the interests of their proprietors.
As indicated earlier, much of the period between 1989 and 1993 was taken up by debates and kite-flying on the changes and postponements in the transition programme. One interesting point to note here is the adroit use by the Babangida regime of acolytes in the press to prepare the ground for such changes and to justify them after they were announced. It was not only such pro- Babangida groups and individuals as the Third Eye, the Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) and Chief Arthur Nzeribe who sought to buy media space in order to push this platform. Senior and respected media personalities and organizations also put themselves into the service of the unfolding agenda.
At the Daily Times, for instance, academic-turned editorial writer and columnist, Chidi Amuta, in 1989, warned what "given the nature and extent of the economic and political reforms which lBB have float in motion, it would be unpatriotic of him and the military to quit power at the centre as early as 1992."36 Another public affairs commentator equally noted in the press in 1991 of Nigerians that they cannot bring themselves to the position where they will tell the President direct: “’please, stay’ but the circumstances will be such that the question of going in 1992 will not arise. First, the politicians have started showing their normal colour even at the level of local government elections. Secondly, the exigencies of continental politics will be such that if IBB cannot hand over in 1992. It will not be his fault. By June next year, he will be re-elected as chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and it will become unpatriotic for any Nigerian to ask him to sacrifice national demands for continental service.
With logic such as this, pro-Babangida forces in and outside the press sought to hijack public discourse to create an image of support for an extended stay in office for Babangida. However, thanks in part to the plural structure of the press and society outlined earlier, this proved a difficult task indeed. The private press, especially in the southern part of the country, continued to insist on Babangida fulfilling his pledge to hand over power to a democratically elected government even on such occasions when Babangida announced changes to terminal dates for such handing over. For instance, as early as 1987, one of such papers, The Guardian, in a series of editorials spanning five days, 6-10 July, criticized among others the Babangida regime's decision to postpone the transfer of power from 1990 to 1992; Again, in an editorial on 1 September 1989, to mark four years of the Babangida regime, The Guardian spoke about promises not kept, of a departure from openness, and of the gains of structural adjustment not spread. The impression was deep-seated, the paper warned that government neither cares nor listens.38
The stage was, therefore; set for a season of government repression of oppositional and pro-democratic media in the count-down to the annulment of the June 1993 presidential election and beyond. Such government repression, however, led to the unintended emergence in oppositional circles of even more irreverent media fare as well as the rise of what was subsequently called the guerilla press - antigovernment newspapers and newsmagazines printed clan-destinely and often in defiance of the law and the finer points of professionalism. These included the Razor, June 12, and Tempo. Between this extreme and the other, typified by such papers as the New Nigerian which were literally mindless and uncritical in their pro-government stance, supporting virtually everything the Babangida regime did, and inciting the regime against dissidents and critics, were the more respectable if critical publications such as Tell, The News, AM News, the Sunday Magazine and the older southern private press, among others. This was the press bequeathed to the nation by General Babangida as he left office in August 1993. It was a press whose structure could not sustain democratic transition not to talk of democracy and, as events from August culminating in full return of military rule in November underscored.
Objectives of the Study
The aim of this research is to examine the involvement of the Nigerian mass media in the Liberian conflict while its objectives are to Investigate the issues that propel the Nigerian Journalists in their involvement in Liberia.
Expose the modus oprandi of the mass media as well as its attitude to conflicts and war
Highlight the challenges of the Nigerian mass media in the reportage of the Liberian civil war
Analyze the impacts of the Nigerian journalists and the media outfit in the Liberian conflict.
Scope of the Study
The scope of the research spanned from 1989 when the first phase of the Liberian civil war began till 2003 when the war ended.
Justification of Research
Despite the fact that the Nigerian Mass Media had a great impact in the Liberian civil war, its efforts in the course of the war has not been sufficiently examined by scholars. Therefore this research is to bring to limelight the major issues in the Nigerian Press coverage of the civil war. The research revealed the fact that while a few newspapers and particularly some of the independent news weeklies sought a more or less balanced and vigorous coverage of the unfolding crisis in Liberia others performed not as independent arbiters but as partisans in various guises and disguises and consequently they fell victim to the lack of integrity. While these shortcomings continued to constrain the credibility and democratic impact of the most Nigerian Press houses, few showed a resilience and independence of objectives reportage throughout the conflict.
The press in Nigeria has remained a diverse, outspoken institution, regardless of whether an elected government or a military regime is in power. It has sought to act as a check on those in authority, but its effectiveness has sometimes been vitiated by governmental legislation, by ethnic, religious and political influences, by its own economic vulnerability, and by the inadequacies of the men and women who report and comment on the news. Some of these factors came to the fore in the transition process. While a few newspapers, and particularly some of the independent news weeklies, sought a more or less balanced and vigorous coverage of the unfolding politics of the transition, others performed not as independent arbiters but as partisans in various guises and disguises, who also fell victim to the lack of integrity that pervaded governance and politics both. While these shortcomings continued to constrain the credibility and democratic impact of the Nigerian press, they were not the whole story. For, throughout the controversy over the 12 June 1993 presidential elections, and until the entire transition programme finally exploded that November, the independent press played a critical role in reporting the unprecedented campaign and results, questioning the motives of the military, and campaigning for an end to military rule and duplicity and the full inauguration of a civilian, constitutional rule. For that, it was to pay an even dearer price after the transition collapsed and a new wave of repression was unleashed by General Sani Abacha.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Karlyn Kohrs Campell, the Interplay of influence: News, Advertising and the Mass Media (London: Wadsworth, 1970), p. 2.
Kathleen Jamieson, Eloquence in an Electronic age (New York; Oxford University Press, 1998),p. 7. See also J. Herbert Altschull, Agents of Power: the Role of the News Media in Human Affairs (New York: Longman, 1984), p. l0. Anthony Smith, "The Long Road to Objectivity and Back Again: The Kinds of Journalism We Get in Truth" in Boyce Curran and Wingate Mhani (eds.), Newspaper History from the 17th Century to the Present Day (London: Constable, 1978), p.l64.Harold D. Lasswell, "The Structure and Function of Communication in Society" in Layman Bryson (ed.), the Communication of Ideas (New York: Institute of Religious and Social Studies, 1948), p. 52.
Wilbur Schramm, Mass Media and National Development: The Role of Information in the Developing Countries (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964. p.14. Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw, "The Agenda-setting Function of the Mass Media", Public Opinion Quarterly, 36, 87, 1972, p. 45.
Schramm, Mass Media and National Development p.14.
Fred I. A. Omu, Press and Politics in Nigeria, 1859-1937 (London: Longman, 1978), p. 11.
James Coleman, Nigeria: Background to Nationalism, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1958), p. 184.
Omu, Press and Politics in Nigeria, 1859-1937, p. 35.
Nnamdi Azikiwe, My Odyssey,(London: Hurst & Co., 1970), p. 32.
Omu, Press and Politics in Nigeria, p. 32. Coker, Landmarks
Peter Golding and Philip Elliott, Making the News (London: Longman, 1979), p.21.
William Hachten, Muffled Drums: The News Media in Africa, Iowa State University Press, 1971, p. 165.
Omu, Press and Politics in Nigeria, p. 32.
T.O. Elias, Nigerian Press Law, (London: University London and Evans Brothers, 1969), p. 135.
Adeoye Akinsanya, “The Nigerian Press and the 1979 General Elections,” in Oyeleye Oyediran (ed.), the Nigerian 1979 Elections (Lagos: Macmillan, 1981), pp. 111-122.
Olatunji Dare, “The Nigerian Press: 126 Years of Patchy Service", Newswatch (Special edition to mark Nigeria's 25th Independence Anniversary), October 1985, pp. 41- 46.
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