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JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY AND ETHICAL DILEMAS IN REPORTING POLITICS IN NIGERIA

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JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY AND ETHICAL DILEMAS IN REPORTING POLITICS IN NIGERIA
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  ABSTRACT The study examined journalistic integrity and ethical dilemmas in reporting  politics in Nigeria. Using analytical approach, the posits that the critical role of the media is to watch-dog; check and balance; gatekeep; create awareness; create public interest, sustain democracy, uncoer and nor to coer up corruption in the society but they must be professionally upright, honest and build trust in line with ethics, so as to be well respected by the public they sere.  !indings showed that the nation is socially responsible in concept, structure, ideology and goernance, journalists will tend to be responsible in their  professional practice and feel duty bound to maintain leels journalistic integrity. The study concludes that truth is the cornerstones of good and responsible journalism. "t recommends among others that journalist should be trained in standard ethical alues, as embodied in the professional for enhancing the capacity of public functionaries in analy#ing and resoling the commonly encountered ethical dilemmas of reporting politics in Nigeria.  JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY AND ETHICAL DILEMAS IN REPORTING POLITICS IN NIGERIA -Nomor Terzungwe Jeremiah & Ugondo Peter  INTRODUCTION Journalism entails a high degree of public trust. To earn and maintain this truth, it is morally imperatie for eery !ournalist, and eent news medium to obsere the highest  !ournalistic integrity in the e"ercise of their duties. # !ournalist should always hae a healthy regard and respect for the public interest, good and social responsibility.$n the political domain, normatie nature of ethics tends to be in the frontline of ethical reasoning, as against its empirical dimension. %onseuently, publics usually understand ethics to be a system of prescribed and commonly shared 'standard alues( )for e"ample trust worthiness, responsibility, fairness, respect and compassion etc*. The 'rules of conduct( )especially, those regarding financial gains, use of public resources, transparency and accountability, fair process, etc* for guiding the obligatory, permissible and prohibitie official actions in the polity )+ali, /01*.$n a nation that is socially responsible in concept, structure, ideology and goernance, !ournalists will tend to be responsible in their professional practice and feel duty bound to maintain some leels of !ournalistic integrity. 2ut on the other hand, in a nation that is socially irresponsible, !ournalists will be contaminated with irresponsible instincts and thus show traits of irresponsible !ournalism such as sensationalism, falsehood, bias, outright lies, propaganda and unethical practices which ma3e !ournalistic integrity unattainable.#ccording to #3infeleye )4/01* obsered that, there has been an astonishing growth in the power of the media, if there hae been any correspondent increase in the social responsibility and !ournalistic integrity on the part of the !ournalists. The tendency has been to reel in power and to wide it freely rather than accept any corresponding increase in responsibility and attainment of !ournalistic integrity.  5ecent researches found that the ma!or ob!ecties of maintaining !ournalistic integrity in reporting politics is to coer the law ma3ers and perhaps the law brea3ers in a way to show the public how press coers politics in the society. #3infeleye )4/04* iewed that we don6t tell our readers-iewers- listeners what we do or how we do it. +e don6t admit our mista3es, we seldomly assess our stage and leel of !ournalistic integrity in our reportage, unless we are irtually forced to, under threat of court action, adertisers, public opinion or public embarrassment. +e ma3e no attempt to e"plain our  problems, our decisions, our procedures of monitoring goernance and ma3ing them acceptable to the public.The cornerstone of responsible !ournalism in Nigeria today is to determine whether or not the press in their headlines, newsgathering, news writing, news  presentation, picture placements, features, editorials and entire pac3aging of their newspapers7magazines, radio7teleision programmes writing and production, hae been  bought oer by political and economic ma3ing function of their outfits, rather than see3ing the truth. Statement of the Problem $n the Nigerian conte"t, the press is considered as the driing mechanism of the democratic spirit. The assertion is true because ibrant politic3ing is based on principles,  plurality of ideas, electoral discipline, diersity of audiences and respect for law and order. %urran and 8eaton )0944* argue that the media become an agency through which citizens reconstitute themseles to e"ercise informal superision oer the state. :n the other hand, the media are the channels of mass communications that are actiely engaged in the gathering, analyzing and disseminating issues of and about politics.$nfact, the 0999 Nigerian constitution is clear on its assigned role to the media in the polity. $n section , it says that 'the press, radio, teleision and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental ob!ecties to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the goernment to the people(. This, the constitution  has legitimated the functions of the media and imposed on them the role of monitoring and ealuating the performance of our leaders at all leels. The e"tent to which the media actualize this constitutional proision in their functions e"posed !ournalistic integrity in the society.Political reporting is necessary for the sustenance of democracy which the system of chec3s and balances is reuired for good goernance and democratic sustainability )Umaru & 2ashir, 4/;0*.<ually, the media or !ournalism depended on how they use their powers, can 'order and structure political reality, allotting eents greater or lesser significance( according t their presere or obsere on the agenda. This is where the issue o opinion  polling or o" populi comes in. through such mechanisms, the media too can play significant role in determining the agenda for polity and other policy issues to maintain their integrity. Lterat!re Re"e# $ The press( according to #3infeleye );* 'is to watch-dog, chec3-on-to uncoer and neer to coer up corruption or wrong doings by the other three states. They are also to monitor goernance and ma3e the other three estates accountable to the people at times(. =oral alues determine what you genuinely do or feet should be done with absolute truth and honesty. This commands !ournalistic inner self to do the right thing to  be socially responsible and to do well for the betterment of tomorrow. $ts foundation is  based on morality. 2ut why moral alues are thrown aside for selfish considerations. >or e"ample, the ?et-Them Pay )?TP* concept of the electronic media in Nigeria, and not liing for the sa3e of others by the politicians, then corruption steps and in and it completely destroys integrity, thereby ma3ing accountability and responsible !ournalism unattainable.#3infeleye )4/009* noted that, 'the theory of a free press is that truth will emerge from the free reporting and discussion(. 8ince =ay 9, 0999, the Nigerian press  under a democratic rule, has been at logger heads with some corrupt and fraudulent  politicians. $n its attempt to perform its constitutional role of monitoring public officers and ma3ing the goernment accountable to the Nigerian press has been commended by some sections of the public, while other public sections of the condemned the press for going beyond its mandate of monitoring and accountability to pitting the public officers on trial. They hae openly accused the press of constituting itself into a court of law and monitoring trials of some public officers and giing their !udgment before that of the court )#3infeleye, 0999/0;*.8pecial eents that came into mind include those of the former spea3er of the @ouse of 5epresentaties, <alisu 2uhari, was accused of fraud through false declaration of his age and uniersity certificates. #fter thorough inestigation, he was found guilty as charged and eentually remoed from office.#nother pendelum swung to the highest law ma3ing institution in Nigeria-then senate president, %hief <an <nwerem, was put on trial for an offence similar to that of his counterpart in the @ouse of 5epresentaties. @e tried igorously to defend himself from the allegation of false age declaration, birth certificate, and his secondary education, as well as corruption of office when he was Aoernor of 2orno 8tate. :ther public officers in recent times that hae been sub!ected to press trial include the spea3ers of the <nugu, Belta, :yo, 2enue, and :ndo state @ouse of #ssembly )#3infeleye, 4/01*.Journalism today in Nigeria faces an increasing need for ethical reporting, accuracy, fairness and ob!ectiity. The code of ethics should therefore be the companion of the practicing !ournalists as well as the informed public in proiding ethical guidelines which practitioners should !udge and be !udged by, to preent or at least reduce the cases of unnecessary sensationalism in the profession. The code of ethics also affirms that self-regulation through a code of ethics and other structures drawn up by professionals and the  public so that they can maintain some leels of !ournalistic integrity.
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