Journalism is no doubt a noble profession. It has produced prominent men and women who have contributed immensely to the growth and development of the society. Besides its primary role of informing and educating the masses, the media play a critical role in shaping and reshaping public opinion on issues of national and global importance.
The media played a crucial role in the pre and post Independence era of Nigeria. The likes of late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ernest Ikoli and Dele Giwa, to mention but a few, used the instrumentality of the media to fight the colonial masters until the independence of Nigeria was restored. They practiced journalism with a sense of professionalism.
Of course, their passion and zeal for the profession was unparalleled.
Then people went into journalism with determination to succeed. In fact, the profession became the envy of other professions because of its central role of abridging the gap between the leaders and the led.
Unfortunately, since all manner of people have found their way into the profession, the issue of professionalism has become a major concern among practitioners. Regrettably, this unprofessional act is gradually undermining the profession hitherto held in high esteem.
Many who claimed to be media practitioners indulge in unethical practices, denting the image of the profession.
Perhaps, this could be the reason journalism has been given the sobriquet: ‘all comers’ affair.’ This ugly phenomenon could be attributed to the high rate of youth unemployment. People of questionable characters have found their way into the profession, thus constituting all kinds of professional nuisance. These quacks and unprofessionals parading themselves as journalists go about publishing sensational and malicious stories.
The code of ethics guiding the profession clearly stipulates that journalists should neither solicit nor accept bribe, gratification or patronage to suppress or publish information, but the reverse has been the case today as a good number of journalists suppress the truth for pecuniary gains. The most disturbing aspect is that these
quacks do not know what constitutes minimum conduct and expectation of a professional journalist.
Ideally, journalism entails a high degree of public trust and practitioners should also be seen in that light of earning that trust.
Ordinarily, public interest should come before personal interest, but what we see these days are inaccurate and misleading information.
Foreign media stations like the CNN and Aljazeera have since joined the fray of media outfits writing unbalanced reports on Nigeria. They always report the negative aspect without the corresponding positive side of the country.
It is, however, disheartening that the various regulatory bodies such as the Nigerian Press Council, NPC; Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ;
Nigeria Guild of Editors, NGE and Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, BON, have not really stamped their authorities in enforcing the code of conduct.
It therefore behooves on them to come out of their shadows and do what is needful. All the quacks and fake journalists, who by omission or commission found themselves into journalism, should be flushed out to send the right signal that the profession is, after all, not ‘all comers affair’.
Imbibing professionalism in journalism should be the watchword of every practicing journalist. There is need for media owners to organise periodic training and re-training of their staff.
While it is imperative for journalists to always uphold the highest professional and ethical standards at all times, media owners should equally provide a conducive environment and right incentives for journalists to excel. The media should refrain from aggravating societal tension through news and commentaries and synergize with government to enable the public have a balanced and object news devoid of falsehood.
Furthermore, the freedom of expression is one of the essential foundations of a democratic society; the media should therefore exploit this freedom of expression to the full benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians.