Paper Title
CONFLICT REPORTING AND JOURNALISTIC NORMS/FREEDOMS IN DEVELOPED AND DEVELOPING NATIONS
Author
Sam Okechukwu Omeje
Section
Arts, Language, and Communication
Abstract

There are as many definitions of law as there are people who study law. Some people define law as any social norm or any organized or ritualized method of settling disputes. Most writers on the subject insist that it is a bit more complex because some system of sanctions is required. So, some institutions define law as definite rules of human conduct with appropriate sanctions for their enforcement. The rules and the sanctions must necessarily be prescribed by duly constituted human authority. Some scholars suggest that law is really social engineering; an attempt to order the way people behave in accordance with laid down rules. This paper considers media law as a set of rules that guide human conduct via the press; and a set of formal governmental sanctions that are applied when those rules are violated. . These views have been carefully x-rayed in this paper and supported with a typology of earlier-decided cases on press freedom.

Keywords
law, social norm, enforcement, conduct, authority

Introduction

At 6.07 GMT in the morning of Monday 27th May, 2003, Andrew Gilligan, a BBC journalist and defence correspondent, reported live on air on BBC Radio 4’s flagship morning news programme, titled ‘Today’, that; “the central claim in Tony Blair’s dossier published in September, 2002 was wrong … he knew that the forty-five minute figure was wrong even before government decided to put it in… Downing Street … ordered week before publication … to be sexed up, more exciting and ordered for more facts”.

The above  news  report was an extremely serious allegation because the British Prime Minister and his ‘spin doctors’ pressured the intelligence services to selectively report the information they had and subsequently edited in order to justify the political goal of military engagement to topple the Iraqi regime. This news report was repeated in a toned-down form later the same day on BBC Radio 4, and  Radio 5 Live Programmes and  the 10 O’clock  News. It became the object of broader coverage of a war on Iraq and its attempt to convince the public of the serious and current threat posed to UK’s interests by Saddam Hussein’s regime. It subsequently led to the Hutton’s inquiry that investigated the death of Dr. David Kelly, a senior weapons-of-mass destruction and scientific expert, said to be the key source of Andrew Gilligan’s story. Although, the government was exonerated by the inquiry, public trust in the former Prime Minister’s action was certainly affected by these events. Both the BBC Director-General and Chairman were pressured to resign for their failure to check the editorial procedures that had allowed Gilligan to make his claim in public. Accordingly, these factors have produced a culture of spin in which truth is secondary in attempts to influence the public for the benefit of private interest (Pitcher, 2003).

Like the Gilligan ordeal, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) anchor, John Momoh, in a conflict lead story, reported how the former Nigerian President, Shehu Shagari abandoned “the National External Telecommunication fire”, and traveled to India, a story which saddled his firm to clap on him despite his high spirit of  professionalism.

Also, Africa Independent Television (AIT) was shut down and its license revoked in September 2008 for carrying the news that the former President of Nigeria, late Alhaji Umaru Yar’dua, planned to resign on health grounds. The authorities cited a decided case of Lord Atkin in Donoghue V. Stevenson (1932) that: “you are to love your neighbor and not to injure your neighbor”.

            And in Sierra Leone, an undercover journalist, Sorious Samura, was arrested by Charles Taylor’s regime for espionage. He was saved from the throes of death by the trio of late Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, and Jesse Jackson, (Awoyinfa, 2015).

            This study explores how activities surrounding news workers’ coverage of their own firm relates to the phenomenon of hidden conflicts in organization, and suggests what difference it makes for journalistic output. Reporting news from the government angle is one thing that does not go down well with the media despite the freedom of the press as widely acclaimed (Awoyinfa, 2005). This paper argues that news firms expect to set aside any conflict on issues between reporters and their superiors, which Turow (1994 p. 30) holds that organizational argumentation represents the norm rather than the exception in news organizations.

 

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