As noble as it is, the journalism profession is far beyond mere paid political praise singers, rumour peddlers, and social media ranters. Unfortunately, many journalists displayed the highest level of unprofessionalism during the just concluded presidential and governorship elections.
This made the public lose the trust and the reliability of the information received from these individuals and the media organisations they represent. Citizen journalism pave way for the democratic flow of information using the available conventional media and cyberspace.
The dissemination of fake, unreliable, inaccurate, unfair, and unbalanced reports experienced during the conduct of the elections was unprecedented and this led to tension, confusion, and pandemonium in many parts of the country.
Unfortunately, Nigerian politicians have this strategy of propagating cooked information to deceive the public and seeking sympathy and support for purported injustice in favour of their political will. Consequently, people out of desperation were quick to declare their preferred candidates as winners without authenticating the reliability of the information at hand from the authority concerned.
Thus, they indulged in sharing distorted information that favours their political interest regardless of its authenticity, which usually ended up degrading one’s personality in the eye of their teeming friends and social media followers.
Unfortunately, many acclaimed practicing journalists have shown clear negligence for the professional laws and ethics guiding the noble profession. Thus, they have turned into rumour peddlers, political megaphones, and cheap social media ranters while failing to realise the distinguishing factors that characterise the profession with mere paid political praise singers.
Besides, those championing their cause through social networking sites have ample opportunity to do that, especially in this era of digitisation. But, they should not in any way cross ethical and religious boundaries in doing that, to the extent of disrespecting people of utmost integrity and impeccable character – religious clerics, traditional leaders, elders in society, and constituted authorities.
Activities of some individuals on social media have recently shown their intolerance to accept differences that characterise us as individuals which is the beauty and essence of variety. People have different views, perceptions, thoughts, and ideas about everything that is happening in society including the outrageous game of politics.
Professionally, every well-trained journalist is known and distinctively identified with a sophisticated ideology of being righteously guided by the core objective and principles of the noble profession which is truth, as it remains the cornerstone of journalism practice.
A morally sound and intelligent journalist strives hard to ensure accuracy, objectivity, and fairness when presenting the factual report of both news and current affairs for the fact remains that journalists are the mirror that best gives a plausible reflection of what a responsible society entails.
Regrettably, the indisciplined so-called journalists who had passed through the rigorous processes of attaining the classical stage of answering the title of the society’s watchdogs, failed woefully to prove themselves as true journalists; engaging in unbalanced, unethical, and biased reporting of issues and events, especially during the elections, clearly leaning on a side or another forgetting what is their prime objective of being a pillar of the fourth estate of the realm not realising the grave consequences of their inactions. The 2023 politicking and elections have come and gone. The thick line that divided people along religious, ethnic, and political inclinations has faded, leaving economic, social, and political realities to prevail.
Above all, one cannot be a journalist and a coward simultaneously. it’s either you’re a journalist or a coward.
Department of Mass Communication University of Maiduguri,