By Ishaq Habeeb
The media serves as the fourth estate, or the fourth arm of government, that works to ensure that the rights and privileges of Nigerian citizens; rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of information, among others, are well protected and granted under the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The media carry out the daunting task of holding the government accountable for their deeds, misdeeds, actions or inactions, by informing and educating the citizenry about the state of the nation, which motivates people to insist that the government keep its campaign promises and are sticking to the rule of law in ways that wouldn’t tamper with the lives and well-being of the citizenry.
In present-day Nigeria, however, practising balanced journalism is arguably one of the most demanding jobs, as Journalists are torn between two dilemmas. On the one hand, they have to own up to their responsibility of informing the people of daily happenings and state of the nation, being as informative and as accurate as possible while at it.
While on the other hand, they can’t do that now without inadvertently giving criminal elements, e.g., bandits, unmerited media popularity. This subsequently encourages them and their heinous activities, plus undermining government efforts in tackling the state of wanton insecurity, currently bedevilling us in Nigeria.
Take today, for example, virtually every news media platform in the country is carrying a headline detailing reports of bandits’ attack on the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Afaka, Kaduna state. In the attack, two or so officers were reportedly shot dead and one other allegedly abducted.
Recently, rumours were that the APC government, in its autocratic fashion, attempts to gag Nigeria’s media from reporting successful terror attack stories. It is part of its efforts to demoralise the terrorists, instead of emboldening them with catchy news headlines by the media, especially about such embarrassing attacks on key federal facilities as NDA and/or it’s personnel, whenever there’s any.
The policy, undemocratic as it may seem, may not be entirely misplaced. However, if there’s strong political will, the government can do a lot better in handling the insecurity problem than just gagging the news media for simply doing their job legitimately.
As i penned this, the bandits that attacked, killed and kidnapped Nigerian army personnel today, at their strongest base, are probably out there somewhere right now, reading the trending news headlines, gloating, having a house party and perhaps, promoting their daredevil commandants behind the brazen attack on Nigeria’s strongest military facility, for their dare devilishness.
Now you can see how the media, by simply doing their job, are inadvertently giving the bandits undeserved media popularity, which is what the government was thinking – in their narrow approach – when they moved to regulate the way media reports such news, which is, of course, morale-depleting for the security operatives and morale-boosting for the terrorists.
Ishaq Habeeb is a pubic affairs analyst and a freelance journalist; he writes from Nigeria and can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.