This study examined the level of adherence of journalists on their code of conduct in making decisions on how to gather information, analyze, package information, publish and distribute stories in the media. The primary target Population for this study comprised of Journalists in Calabar Metropolis. Using the survey method and the questionnaire as the instrument for data collection, the researchers sampled 200 journalists registered members of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) using simple percentage and chi square in analyzing the data analysis. Findings revealed that despite the importance of journalism code of conduct to journalism practice, journalists’ adherence to it ethics was low. The study also revealed that journalists sometimes contravened journalism code of conduct because of sycophancy, security reasons, desperation, greed, ethical dilemmas, ignorance of journalism code of conduct, and laziness. Based on these findings, it was recommended that media establishments should endeavor to employ only trained journalists to work as journalists. Again media organizations should establish legal departments so as to guide journalists in the establishment on how to practice within the bounds of applicable journalism code of conduct.
1.1 Background of the Study
Among the many problems clustering around journalism practice in Nigeria is the low level of adherence to journalism code of conduct. Most journalists are often found breaking the rules of the media profession. Journalism practice in Nigeria is accompanied with great controversies especially in relation to ethical regulation and adherence to professional code of conduct. Journalism remains an esteemed profession that has a lot to offer in the reformation of society; unfortunately in Nigeria, it has become an all comers affair.
Journalism means writing for newspapers or magazines. It is the communication of information through writing in periodicals and newspapers. The people have an inborn desire to know what’s novel or new. This curiosity is satisfied by the journalists through their writing in the newspapers and journals on current affairs and news.
Journalism code of conduct here refers to the principles that regulate the activities of the media profession. The media is expected to operate within the ambit of a code of conduct as the practice is regarded as having an underlying mission: to serve and safeguard public interest. However, given the fact that freedom of the media and of expression, as well as the right to access information, are an essential prerequisite for democracy, journalism ethics seek to protect the fundamental rights of individuals and ensure the maintenance of harmony. Nevertheless, there is little research on the adherence level of journalism code of conduct. This can partly be attributed to the media institutions concentrating on the bottom line hence their reluctance to commission research on adherence to media code of conduct.
Journalism code of conduct discourse is integral in journalism practice and development. Agbese (2010), observes that the Nigerian press organization Code of Honour which outline journalist’s duties and conduct, is to be adhered to by journalist’s discretion and has no language of enforcement. This is in line with Merrill’s (2011) conceptualization of media ethics as “a normative science of conduct, with conduct considered primarily self-determined, rational and voluntary”. Which implies that, ethical principles are actualized based on personal responsibility and autonomy (Plaisance and Deppa 2009) accompanied with press freedom (Merrill). The press (print and electronic) as a social institution is expected to derive its code of conduct from its role in the society, ensuring that it is above board in a manner of information acquisition and, use and dissemination.
According to Foreman (2010), who defines ethics as a set of moral principles, a code often written that guides a person’s conduct. Ethical issues in journalism are quite complex as they affect several aspects of the profession from numerous journalistic virtues such as accuracy of news items (the use of new technology to alter photographs also bothers on accuracy (Iggers 1999), accountability, objectivity, truthfulness, conflict of interest, racism, sexism, privacy etc, to response of different media outfits to economic challenges. For example, media outfits could lie about their circulation figures in order to gain the patronage of advertisers (Foreman 2010, Iggers 1999).
Joseph Pulitzer as cited by Charles (1999), opined that a journalist is there to watch over the safety and welfare of the people who trust him” (p. 225). In the Nigerian perspective, the media, to put it succinctly, have done well in pursuing this noble goal. It is therefore no longer debatable that the media are largely responsible for the actualization of Nigerian’s independence, curbing of neo-colonial excesses and the propagation of the ideals of a modern nation-state. According to Oseni (1999), the media have been consistent in exposing corrupt and inept leadership, socio-political perfidy and primitive dictatorship. In as much as workers of all sorts are required to perform; financial objectives predominate and there seems to be little scope for ethics, irrespective of the worker’s own personal motives and desires.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The reoccurring challenges of journalist’s attitude in the conduct of their activities led to the emergence of various regulatory bodies in order to curb the excesses of media practitioners. For instance, the mass communication policy which was adopted in 1990 spawned two regulatory bodies to oversee the print media and the electronic media. These are the Nigerian Press Council (NFC) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). Subsequently, a more comprehensive code of ethics for journalists was formulated in 1998 by the Nigeria Press Organisation (NPO), comprising the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Newspapers Proprietors of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Nigeria Press Council (NPC) (Egbon, 2006). Despite the emergence of professional code of ethics, media practitioners continue to flout these professional codes with impunity.
Alemoh (2011, p. 305) asserts that “in Nigeria today, as it is elsewhere in the world, a violation of ethics of journalism has almost become the rule, rather than the exception.” Sambe (2009, p. 60) equally confirms that “the most disturbing phenomenon in the practice of journalism in Nigeria today is non-observance of ethical practice by journalists”. The consequences of this have led to dwindling performance and credibility crises among media organisations in Nigeria. Lamenting on this situation, Utor (2009, p.129) notes that “Nigerian mass media organisations have lost to a great extent; a large readership, listenership, as well as, viewership, because so many Nigerians are sick and tired of its lack of credibility.” It is unfortunate that this has become a common practice among media organizations and independent media institutions alike. This unwelcome development necessitated the study on adherence of journalism code of conduct by journalists in Calabar Metropolis.
1.3 Objective of the Study
This study aims at evaluating the adherence level of journalism code of conduct in Cross River State with a focus on Calabar Metropolis. Specifically, the study seeks:
- To find out if journalists in Calabar Metropolis reflect on journalism code of conduct in their decision making.
- To examine how non-adherence to journalism code of conduct affects journalism practice in Calabar Metropolis.
- To ascertain the level of knowledge of Nigerian journalists of the various journalism code of conduct.
- To determine how managerial incompetence influences journalism practice in Calabar Metropolis.
1.4 Research Question