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NATION AND PUNCH NEWSPAPER COVERAGE OF ENDSARS PROTEST IN NIGERIA

MASS COMMUNICATION PROJECT TOPICS AND MATERIALS

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background to the Study

Newspaper plays has always act as a medium of enlightenment during  Protest in Nigeria as witnessed in the recent surge of Endsars protest. The protest was an offshoot of Special Anti-Robbery Squad brutality against Nigerian citizens.

 

The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was created in Lagos State in 1992, a time when Notorious armed robbers such as Shina Rambo were in control of the state (Midenda, 2017).It was created as a faceless police unit that performs undercover  operations  against  armed  robbers.  Within almost  two  decades  of  its  creation,  the  unit  spread  across the various states of the country. The spread of the unit across NATIONwithout a proper structure, accounts for some of its lawless charcteristics.

The Endsars campaign started  with  the  publication  of  a  petition  by  convener  Segun  Awosanya.  It  was  signed  by  10,195  Nigerians and submitted to the Nigerian National Assembly to scrap the  police  unit.  The  Twitter  campaign  started  on  the  2nd of  December  2017,  when  a  footage  of  police  officers attached to the unit shot and killed a man surfaced online. The  campaign  became  a  trending  topic  on  Twitter  with  over  400,000  Tweets within  twelve  hours. Chukwu (2020)

In October 2020, Nigerians turned the online campaign to a peaceful protest which later degenerated to a violence protest after Nigerian soldier was accused of shooting unarmed protesters in lekki tollgate in Lagos state . Before the campaign, there have been isolated cases of police brutality all over the country. However,  it  was  during  the  campaign  that  the  damage  caused  by  such  brutality  was  discovered.

The campaign also exposed the level of rot within the police unit according to  the  convener  of  the  campaign.  The campaign further  revealed that the police has no recognizable structure with no organized system of operation, officers of the unit act based on self-will with little or no regards for fundamental human right for citizens especially vulnerable youth.

 

It can be said that media is both a protagonist and an antagonist to a peace process. Media can foster human security, and there is evidence that media can reinforce motives for fuelling wars. It can be an instrument for peace and conflict management, which promotes messages and strategies that can lead to peaceful agreements and tolerant behaviour in a given society. Media can also be a weapon of violence that propagates biased information and manipulates societies or groups in conflict with divisive ideologies and harmful actions. Thus, the media have become pervasive and extremely influential in attitudes towards conflict. The influence of the media over conflicts has never been under doubt, the question is do the media actually have an impact on how the conflict progresses? As Anup Shah puts it, ―Often, especially when covering conflicts, the media organizations are subject to various constraints by governments, military, corporate pressure, economic interests, etc. Sometimes, however, the media are more than willing to go along with what could be described as self-censorship Anup. (2005) The media use in fighting wars is legendary. During World War I, British newspapers published casualty figures that were acceptable to the government but less than accurate. ―British success in battles was emphasized as opposed to the minimal gains actually made. All countries were guilty of this, Parisians did not know about the danger Verdun was in during the initial stages of the German attack despite being just 150 miles from the city. The French authorities simply clamped down on the truth. Anybody caught spreading the truth regarding Verdun was liable for arrest (―Propaganda and World War one‖, 2010)

With the advent of convergence media, that is the satellite and the internet in collaboration with conventional media like the television, radio, newspapers, magazines the role of the media in conflicts is even more glaring. Amah (2018) Media owners also have certain interest to support one side of the conflict or the other for example in covering the various conflicts around the world, it can be observed that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Cable News Network (CNN) FOX NEWS, American Broadcasting Company (ABC) National Broadcasting Company (NBC) British Broadcasting Company (BBC) Commonwealth Broadcasting Network (CBN) Middle East Television Network (ALJAZEERA) etc. have various interests and so are reporting from those angles, the way and manner these media report on conflicts like the Israel/Palestine, the Iraqi war, conflicts between India and Pakistan gives a clear indication of the bias of the media.

Specifically the Nigerian media has been blamed for its role in increasing of conflict in the country, due to weak observation and total disregard for the ethics of journalism. For instance during the Endsars peaceful protest which later degenerated into a conflict, the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation sanctioned three media houses namely Arise News, African Independent Television (AIT) and Channels Television with a confinement of  N3 million each for broadcasting unverified social media photos and videos of the protests which escalated the violence across Nigeria. It was observed that when the Endsars peaceful protest turned violence, wanton destruction, arson of government and private properties and looting, the eagerness to break news and be pace setters stations engaged most media houses in the very unprofessional attitude of speculative and unverifiable broadcast. NBC (2020)

The media must be seen to be very objective in the way they disseminate information because they have the power to create, recreate and maintain certain narratives, which could be either destructive or productive in the socio-political affairs of the country. Liman 2010. It is against this backdrop that the study seek to investigate Newspapers Coverage of EndSars Protest .

Statement of Problem

The significance the public attach to conflict situations is greatly hinged on the extent of media coverage. While some conflicts have gained widespread attention through media exposure, others have been relegated to the background due to neglect by the media (Puddephatt, 2006). This presupposes that suppression of the media could be inimical to the mitigation and resolution of such conflicts.

In October, which marked the sixtieth anniversary of Nigerian independence, tens of thousands gathered in protest against the country’s corruption and police brutality. With young people at the helm, they called for the abolition of Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as sars, which they accused of making unlawful arrests and engaging in harassment, theft, extortion, rape, torture, and murder. What began as peaceful demonstrations turned fatal on October 20, when the Nigerian military opened fire at the Lekki tollgate plaza, in Lagos. According to Amnesty International report (2020), officers killed thirty-eight protesters, in what was soon called “the Lekki Massacre.” In Nigeria media coverage is stifled and controlled by the government, in America, reporting on anti-Black violence is often tinged with institutionalized racism and bias. This takes the form of covert skewing of information and overt racist coverage. Even in covering Nigeria’s repression of media, some outlets leaned on language that obscured who was really at fault; Voice of America, the largest US international broadcaster, categorized people who looted never-administered covid-19 palliatives from government warehouses in Abuja as “thugs.” British outlets deployed similar terms: PunchNigeria and BBC News Pidgin used the word “hoodlums” to describe those who disrupted a TVC broadcast. Among critics, these characterizations were deemed problematic; as the Nigerian musician Seun Kuti noted, they were also void of context.

“There are these subtle ways that racism works in the oldest of institutions,” Alexandra Bell, an artist and journalist focused on exposing how racism and bias in journalism are more than hiccups, has observed. In a recent tweet, she noted a trend in “American media’s more precise use of language around police brutality and human rights violations when reporting about what happens in Black nations abroad.” The American press must be clear: police brutality is a domestic humanitarian crisis; it is also a global problem anchored by white supremacy—if not limited to the binary of race, attached to residual effects of colonialism and imperialism.

 

The Nigerian government’s remnants of martial culture including suppression of the press are more than a poor reflection of NATIONin the eyes of foreign friends like the United States, whose politicians have criticized Buhari’s administration.

Objective of the Study

The main objective of this study is to examine Newspapers Coverage of EndSars Protest.  A study of NATIONand Punch.

The specific objectives are to:

  1. examine the major formats of coverage used in presenting the EndSars protest in the selected newspapers (Punch and Nation);
  2. determine the level of prominence given to the EndSars protest in the selected newspapers (Punch and Nation);
  3. find out the extent of geographic variation in the selected newspapers’ coverage of the EndSars protest (Punch and Nation);

Research Questions

  1. What are the major formats of coverage used in presenting the EndSars protest in the selected newspapers (Punch and Nation)?
  2. What is the level of prominence given to the EndSars protest in the selected newspapers (Punch and Nation)?
  3. To what extent did the selected newspapers’ coverage of the EndSars protest vary geographically (Punch and Nation)?

 Scope of the study

This study sought to investigate Newspapers Coverage of EndSars Protest.  A study of (Punch and Nation), This study covered a period of 3 months from October to November 2020. The period was selected based on the premise that the protest increased in occurrence and magnitude during the timeline. The necessity to clarify the latest complexities of the protest also encouraged the selection of the period. This study was delimited to content-analyzing two Nigerian national newspapers, namely: (Punch and Nation);

Significance

The present state of insecurity in Nigeria makes this study a timely one. The findings of this study could prove useful in further understanding the complexities associated with the issue of insecurity in the country. The Nigerian government and security agencies may thereby come to appreciate the urgency required to tackle violent protest through a proactive approach.

This study would help establish the influence of the Nigerian press in a conflict situation. The press would be apprised of its shortcomings, if any, and sensitised on how to promote the mitigation and resolution of conflict. It would also build a case for journalists to be well trained in the aspect of objectivity in reporting

This study would, thus, contribute to filling this gap in the body of knowledge. For researchers in the field of mass communication this would serve as a reference material in conducting similar studies.

Justification

A lot of researches have being conducted in the areas of Newspapers coverage of national issues, especially in the areas of conflict situations in Nigeria and around the globe. The topic on Endsars protest which nearly plunged Nigeria to anarchy is still fresh. There appear to be a dearth of scholarly discourse on the role of the mass media during the Endsars protest in Nigeria as no empirical study dedicated to the subject matter was found in the perusal of extant literature. Hence the present study deems it fit to fill those missing gaps in literature.

Definition of Terms

For the purpose of clarity, variables and concepts as used in the context of this study are defined below:

  • Press: although often a synonym for the news media, this term is employed in this study to particularly refer to newspapers.
  • National Newspapers:refers to newspapers with wide coverage and circulation reach across Nigeria. The (Punch and Nation); are used to represent national newspapers in Nigeria.
  • Newspaper Coverage: this encompasses the process ofsourcing, reporting and analysing information by a particular newspaper. It refers to reports and analyses of the conflict between herders and farmers as presented in the selected national newspapers. This was measured through the news reports, features, news analyses, columns and editorials contained in The nation, Punch and NATION within the period of study.
  • Conflict: refers to differences in interests and goals made manifest through violent clashes between a minimum of two groups at a given point in time. This study is primarily concerned about the conflict between herders and farmers in Nigeria resultant from resource scarcity and other factors; as well as its ranging effects on farming communities.
  • Framing: this refers to how news reports and issues related to the conflict between herders and farmers are slanted in the selected newspapers.
  • Editorial Reaction: refers to the stance or position of the selected newspapers on the policies and actions of the Nigerian government in intervening in the conflict between herders and farmers as expressed in their editorial pieces. Three criteria of critical, supportive, and passive were used to measure the direction of the selected newspapers’ editorials.
  • Source Actors: are individuals and institutions that are quoted or attributed as the primary news makers or key informants in reported news stories in the selected newspapers. These include: victims/eyewitnesses, government officials, security operatives, herders/herders association, farmers/farmers association, religious leaders/organisations, community leaders, socio-cultural groups, civil rights groups, non-governmental relief agencies, etc.
  • Sourcing of Story: This refers to the means through which information for news stories are obtained by the selected newspapers. These include: field coverage/investigation, telephone interview, press release, press conference, news agency/media, and social media.

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