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The Concourse: Journalism — a noble profession not devoid of ignoble professionals

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We can afford to risk losing anything in this country but certainly not the Fourth Estate of the realm – the mass media.

We all agreed, unanimously, that the independence of our electoral body – INEC is vital to the health of our democracy, but we failed to underscore the undeniable import of media neutrality in the entrenchment of democratic ethos.

On October 5, International day for Teachers, we heard the nuggest that the measure of any nation is premised on how it treats its teachers. But the truth is, the mass media, much like teachers, shapes the destiny of any nation. They wield the proverbial yam and the figurative cutlery; thus superintending over who eats what in the national dinning room.

But lately, what is obtainable is disheartening. Abuse of that rare potential is prevalent.

Today, you see a seasoned journalist run advocacy for good governance, tomorrow, he is the image maker of another regime with worse leadership credential than the former one he criticized.

Since Europe institutionalized soccer games and made it a lucrative business, English press has been  the most courted yet dreaded outfit in selling the game. The popular parlance is that English press can make or mar players.

That is the same role Nigerian press play in our polity. However, operating in a milieu tagged global headquarters of poverty may have affected the observance of their ethical codes negatively. It has produced more timid, fawning, cringing, cowering, deceitful, spineless biased, forlorn and downcast journalists than it had worthy, manly, straight-speaking and stern pressmen.

There are four major pillars of truth in any republic: the judiciary, the media, the religious body and Electoral umpire. They serve as the conscience of democracy. They keep politicians on their toes.  They stand as resorts of succour for the masses; becoming the oasis of hope in the arid desert of our polity.

Our democracy is in shambles because these institutions are beggarly, warped and inclined to serve the lust of those who wear the powers of the state.

Few days back, in this space, we discussed four years of uncelebrated reportage of CNN against POTUS Trump, which is climaxing in this election period, and the sharp contrast of Fox News to the same subject, Mr. Christian Omeke, a public affairs analyst said: “it’s like that with major news outlets in almost every country.
The Fourth Estate will always have their political leanings. CNN is to democrats what Fox News is to Republicans. AIT for PDP what TVC and Channels is to APC.” these are incontrovertible facts laced with evidential threads of authentication.

So when will we have and enjoy media outlets that is neutral and unbiased?

Mass communication, Public relations, journalism or whatever other name the mass media comes under, is a noble, professional and well packaged field of endeavour respected by man and law. How some of its practitioners especially in our clime bastardize it by the day, beats imagination.

The other day, we bore witness to FFK’s verbal molestation of a reporter for a reputable newspaper. He literally cajoled the entire profession, making reporters look like itinerant stewards of the ruling class. Instead of pointedly hushing him down, the reporter in question and his colleagues shrunk into their shells, exuding remorseful pheromones.

The next day in their editorials and columns, most of them became bulldogs feasting on the incident, when the damage has been done, and the culprit was long gone.

Apparently, it all started when journalism began to have unholy romance with politics and politicians. We knew that he who pays the piper dictates the beats. Every top politician (whether good or bad) has Media Aid who launders his sullen image and coats his public perception with sugar of lies, while clothing him with fabrics of fallacies to suit his pretentious life.

These press secretaries do this by countering their own colleagues who tries to exhume the ugly side and lay bare the rubbish of their paymaster. You can imagine that FFK has a press secretary who was hired to stop at nothing in deconstructing the truth which his colleague in Daily Trust extricated, to redress the insult his principal dished on the profession on that fateful day in Calabar.

This situation is not exclusive to journalism. Medical & Health profession do find itself in similar situation too. But it doesn’t allow its prestige go irredeemably, neckdeep into politicians pockets. Just think of Commissioner for Health in Kogi countering his colleagues in NCDC six months ago, saying that Covid pandemic is a hoax, just to soothe the ego of his principal – the governor, who was on a rampart crusade preaching that Covid was WHO’s ideology of inflicting undue fears in the people.

The doctor refused to talk in that fashion. He was so subtle that the governor has to resort to his media aid to do that. Yet the same media gave it undue attention, causing public scandal.

Impunity is perpetuated in government today, thanks to some cheapened media men who condescend so low to mortgage their consciences in brown envelopes. What we call media propaganda which the present regime is enmeshed in, does more harm to journalism than it does to the career of politicians who instigate it.

Wealthy and corrupt men in politics will invest in media business, buying and establishing mega publishing company or broadcast firm, then hire best hands in the field only to churn out fallacious precipes and feed the masses with misguided ideologies aimed at keeping them afloat in the current of political voyage.

Sahara Reporters, Junaid Mohammed and Premium Times were fingered as the media outfits employed to stir up the heaviest political propaganda that helped unseat President Jonathan, and rein in Gen. Buhari. They (especially Sahara Reporters) would later attempt a U-turn, but it was too late. Their move to correct the already made errors were meet with stern brutality from their former benefactor/beneficiary.

Their publisher was incarcerated, his human rights blatantly abused, by the same hand it romanced between 2012 and 2015.

Presently in Kano, culpable Gov. Ganduje is trepidatiously vilifying his media adviser, Salihu Tanko Yakasai, a courageous journalist, over what he (Ganduje) called “unguarded” utterances on the person of President Buhari on social media platforms.

Ridiculous, isn’t it?

The #EndSARS protest is here, and Channels Television and its contemporaries were seen as undermining the publicity of such crucial uprising aimed at sanitizing the police force, by giving it lean coverage. They were busy pretending that Ondo Election coverage takes precedence over a massive unrest wrecking the country about FSARS’ irrational incandescence.

The onomatopeic silence of not a few mainstream media organizations in the face of the current uprising against police special intervention force – SARS is conspiratory to say the least. It further, placed a question mark on the independence and exaggerated freedom of our press.

These people have really shown that they are not independent like they claimed. How can they avoid airing such an important news in the country? Our parents who are not on social media won’t even know that there was a massive protest last week. They made it look like it’s just a social media noise.

But in all, we will be eternally grateful to the new media – the social media. It has impact powerful.

Since what looked like organized apathy against Donald Trump’s goodwill by the mainstream media, he has resorted to self help on Twitter and Facebook. And they have proved helpful to his regime and re-election bid.

Such crude indifference to public interest is smearing the images of Nigeria’s media houses badly.

It’s time for our Press Council, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigeria Broadcasting Commision (NBC), Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON), Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), Federal Ministry of Information and other regulatory and professional bodies of journalism practice, to rise to occasion and save their face.

We cannot over emphasize the contribution of the profession in the integral development of the society, but whenever it goes on a reverse gear, it does more collateral harm than good.

May the Light spare us!

Eze Jude O.

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