Herders/farmers’ conflicts: Has media failed?

Media plays a very important role in society, reporting on a wide variety of topics and creating powerful personalities who are relied upon for sources of information and informed commentaries. The importance of the media was apparently what Thomas Carlyle, 19th Century British author, had in mind when he wrote that writing gives people “a tongue which others will listen to
Media is indeed indispensable to the development or otherwise of society. Their roles include educating and enlightening people, setting the agenda for public discourse, informing the public on the happenings around them and finding solutions to societal problems by engaging experts, among others. Reporting crises is one of the most sensitive aspects of journalism that requires high sense of professionalism, objectivity and fairness by media organisations so as to avoid fueling the crises. Investigative journalism is also needed when it comes to reporting crises because it helps a lot in getting to the root cause of the problem and exposing the perpetrators of the act.
The investigation is not only on the crises but on the sources of the weapons being used in the crises especially now with the proliferation of fi rearms into the country becomes rampant. Regrettably, the Nigerian media, otherwise known as the champions of Nigeria’s democracy because of the positive role media professionals played during the military era, have not invested or deliberately refused to venture into investigative journalism after all their years of “enormous successes”.
Rather, they have continued to spread fake news and verbatim reports with screaming and sensational headlines on the derders/farmers clashes, especially in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states, a practice that has created more fear than hope for Nigerians. Every profession is governed by body of laws or ethics. Journalism profession is not an exception.
The ethics governing the practice of journalism in Nigeria are designed to prevent journalists from reports that will trigger violence and malicious reports or publications against government and individuals. But the way some media organizations conduct their activities has been raising concerns on whether they are aware of the ethics or they are just violating it to achieve their selfish interest. Most people accused the Nigerian media of turning a blind eye to some killings, the same way they under reported the alleged massacre of 800 Fulani with their families as well as the burning of their homes in Taraba state by local militia in 2017.
The killings of 12 and missing of 14 herdsmen in Oyo state as well as killing and burning of 7 Fulani travellers in Gboko Motor Park in Benue state did not receive wide coverage by the Nigerian media compared to how they do give emphasis when the suspects were herdsmen.
The way some media report conflicts made people think whether or not they are performing their social responsibility as required, because social responsibility theory states that media should be equal and fair in its reporting of incidents and issues. It further states that, media should avoid information that could lead to crime, violence or social disorder and should also not off end ethnic or religious minorities.
Irrespective of the ownership interest, Nigerian media must be just and objective in their reportage to avoid the 1994 Rwandan ethnic cleansing, which led to the massacre of 800,000 mostly Tutsi and some Hutu sympathizers by the Hutu ethnic majority. Unlike the Hutu ethnic majority who set up newspapers, radio and television stations to spread hate speeches against the Tutsi minority, the Nigerian media must be seriously cautioned and even sanctioned for reports capable of overheating the issue. Truly, the noble profession of journalism doesn’t give room for partiality and selfishness, but I can confirm that some Nigerian journalists have become heavily compromised.
They are now lazy, partisan and divided into pro and anti-government factions, and of course, pro and anti-Fulani/farmer journalists, hence the continuous misrepresentation of facts and figures in the herdsmen/farmers clashes. Tasiu Hassan, Mass Communication Department, University of Maiduguri


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