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Journalism in the season of rising insecurity and mounting national tension

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Over time, it has been empirically established that the media play a huge role in times of insecurity and tension.

The fourth estate of the realm as it is popularly tagged shapes what people think, how people think, how people behave and how they perceive reality. The media is more than a constituency, a channel to many other critical constituencies in fact.

The practice of journalism therefore in critical periods especially such that Nigeria finds herself cannot be overemphasized.

According to Chomsky, “The mass media serves as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs and codes of behaviour that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfil this role requires systematic propaganda.”

What and how the media reports about the topical insecurity issues in Nigeria is very critical in the way the populace reacts to the various security challenges bedevilling it.

At times such as this, there is a need for some form of collaboration between the media and the security apparatus of the state. Such synergy is supposed to coalesce into effective communication standards, proper reportage devoid of sentiments and at the same time based on prevailing facts.

Where this is not done, professionalism takes flight in reporting crises; distortions flowing from political, ethnic or religious prejudices take centre stage. Unfortunately, this cannot be denied by media practitioners in Nigeria.

Today, despite the mass media’s propensity for sleaze, sensationalism and superficiality, the notion of the media as watchdog, as guardian of the public interest, and as a conduit between governors and the governed remains deeply ingrained. The reality, however, is that the media in new and restored democracies do not always live up to the ideal.

The freedom and safety of journalists in Nigeria at times such as this also makes reporting such incidences unsatisfactory to the various actors.

In reporting conflict and other sensitive issues, journalists overstretch themselves to work at great personal and organisational risks. In the process, they are constantly facing multidimensional threats, including legal, financial, psychological, verbal and physical risks such as kidnap, arrest, detention, jail sentence, assault, arson, assassination, raids and the confiscation of gadgets and publications, and death threats to self and family. 

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