An excerpt from NOIPolls’ National Survey conducted in 2017 revealed that 62 per cent of Nigerians surveyed were of the opinion that the Nigerian media is independent, although a significant proportion (29 per cent) stated the media is not independent. This is worrisome especially as the nation is set to face general elections in February 2019 which is less than five months away and the role of the Nigerian media before, during and after the elections cannot be overemphasized.
The Nigerian media is a critical stakeholder in the nation’s effort to advance the cause of democracy, which its sustainability is dependent on the credibility of electoral processes. Speaking at the 2018 All Nigerian Editor’s Conference (ANEC) held in Delta state on 10th October 2018, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, president of the Guild, stated that the media has a role to play in ensuring the sustainability of Nigeria’s democracy in view of the key role it plays in information dissemination and moulding of public opinion. She further stated that it is imperative that the media is properly positioned not only to understand the issues involved in organising a credible election but to advance a truly democratic culture in the manner it reports issues of politics and governance.
Furthermore, in terms of corruption in the media, the survey revealed that Nigerians believe the internet has the highest level of corruption in the Nigerian media space, followed by newspapers and television. While radio was considered the least corrupt, no media outlet, print or electronic, was designed to be completely free of corruption in the country.
When asked about perception on media independence, many Nigerians (62 percent) believed that the Nigerian media are independent, while a smaller but significant proportion of Nigerians (29 percent) disagreed as they do not believe the Nigerian media is truly independent. In terms of gender, 63 percent and 61 percent of male and female respondents believed the Nigerian media is independent, while 30 percent and 28 percent of male and female respondents said no respectively.
When disaggregated by regions, some variations become obvious. While 49 percent of respondents from the North-Central considered the Nigerian media to be independent, it was 61 percent, 78 percent, 57 percent, 44 percent and 69 percent for the North-East, North-West, South-East, South-South and South-West respectively. The North-Central, North-East, South-East and South-South fell below the nationwide score of 62 percent, while only the South-West surpassed it.
The perception of the level of corruption among these media outlets was also tested among the respondents. Findings revealed that 45 percent of the respondents felt that corruption was low in Radio, compared to 31 percent who claimed the same for Newspapers, 34 percent in Television and 36 percent for Internet and Social Media. Another 36 percent of respondents considered corruption to be moderate in Radio, compared to 43 percent for Newspapers and Television and 31 percent for Internet and Social Media. On the other hand, 13 percent of respondents felt corruption was high in Radio, 19 percent in Newspapers, 17 percent in Television and 33 percent in Internet and Social Media. This implied that respondents believe the internet/Social Media to be the most corrupt in the Nigerian media, followed by Newspapers, then Television and Radio as the least corrupt. Yet, one fact obvious from the chart below is that no media outlet, print or electronic, was thought to be completely free of corruption in the country. It was only a matter of degree.
In conclusion, the poll revealed that Nigerians had a relatively positive perception on the media as about 6 in 10 (62 percent) believed that the Nigerian media are independent while almost 3 in 10 (29 percent) thought otherwise. However, it is essential that the Nigerian media is perceived to be totally independent as they are major stakeholders in ensuring that Nigeria’s democracy is sustained through accurate information dissemination. In terms of corruption in the Nigerian media, a larger proportion generally perceived Radio (45percent) to have a low level of corruption, while the Internet and Social Media to have a higher level of corruption.
Finally, given that an independent media is important for democracy, there is need for transparency to be promoted across all the forms of media especially as the 2019 general elections draw closer. Corruption in the media sector can be curbed through the implementation of ethical frameworks for media institutions to enhance professional standards. Additionally, Media outlets should ensure their staff and journalists uphold ethics and integrity, through set codes of conduct, train staff consistently on approved behavioural patterns, constantly ensure such patterns are strictly adhered to and ensuring adequate stiff punishment is meted out to erring journalists.