Journalism is the activity of gathering, assssing, presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities. Journalism can be distinguished from other activities and products by certain identifiable characteristics and practices.
There are some laws and ethics that journalists need to adhere to while practicing the journalism profession.
According to the law of journalism, for one to be called a journalist, they must have at least National Diploma in journalism or related courses.
It is not all those who speak before microphone are called journalists.
Being in journalism profession for a hundred years will never qualify one to be called a qualified journalist, until one returns to school and learns the requisite in journalism.
The quack journalists in the media industry today have tarnished the image of the professional journalists and the profession in general.
Even though, some among them do adhere to the journalistic law and ethics, others are just serving as virus to the profession. A qualified journalist is the one who is theoretically and practically trained by professionals not by praise singers who work at media stations. Adherence to journalistic codes and ethics is the top priority for every journalist.
It is lugubrious to let those who have no knowledge about the codes and ethics of journalism to go on air. These quack journalists do use microphone to tarnishing the image of journalists, prominent people in the society and the profession because they know nothing about defamation and libel law.
Defamation law is designed to protect people’s reputations. It helps prevent statements being published which might unfairly attack or harm an individual’s personal or professional reputation. The law states that defamatory statements are
those which ‘tend’ to expose a person to ‘hatred, ridicule or contempt’, cause them to be ‘shunned.
It is observed that, many journalists in Nigeria do violate this law for their personal gain and for the owners of the station, be it government or individual.
Anyone who uses the media to assassinate the character of an individual is not a journalist even if he has hundred years work experience and Ph.D in Mass Communication.
It is sad to note that opponents of the government and those of the owners of private media houses have no chance to speak to general public via these channels even if their character is being assassinated.
It could be recalled that, character assassination is one of the reasons why Former Vice President, Waziri Adamawa Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, established Gotel Communications in 2008, following incessant attacks he received from an “unqualified, praise singer and quack journalist” working with state government radio.
His character was assassinated and he was denied a forum to defend himself via that channel. Quack journalists take journalism profession for granted and divert the general public from the straight path just to achieve their goals. This is what led us to brown envelope journalism.
Brown envelope journalism (BEJ) is a practice whereby monetary inducement is given to journalists to make them write a positive story or kill a negative story. The name is derived from cash inducements hidden in brown envelopes and given to journalists during press briefings. Brown envelope journalism influences presenters of radio and television programmes to change the synopsis of their programmes just to acquire wealth. Some programmes are designed to entertain the general public but the presenters switch them to either political or “Maula” [begging] programmes.
It is very unfortunate that the heads in the media industry, the professionals and the National Broadcasting Commission Branchesnare keeping mute while this ugly trend is unfolding.
These quack journalists are not in media to inform, educate and entertain but to fill their pockets, teach people how to beg and tarnish the image of media industry.
Moreover, some reporters go for interview with the sole aim of getting brown envelopes. This makes them interview wrong person who is not an expert on the topic of discussion.
The quacks turned media industry to business industry by the way they gather their News and present their programmes because sometimes, they openly source for money on air from well to do individuals to fill their pockets and give those who President Muhammad Buhari termed as “Lazy Youths” which contradicts the laws and ethics of journalism profession.
Most of these quack journalists are WASSCE holders with others having qualification in different fields. The few amongst them who have National Diploma and Degree in journalism are blindly following the quacks in order to get some token of money.
The degree of attacks and threats journalism is receiving from these quack journalists is more than the one Nigeria is receiving from Boko Haram and armed bandits. Indeed, lecturers, media gurus and NBC have a very long way to go.
Danlami Nadawa Lumba,
Mass Communication Department,
University of Maidugur.