The Role of the Press in Emerging Democracies: An Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of Political Violence and Corruption in Nigeria
thesisposted on 02.07.2018, 11:47 by Kelechi Jamfe Onyemaobi
This study evaluates the performance of the Nigerian press in discharging the duties of a watchdog prescribed for it by the Nigerian Constitution – of monitoring the activities of public office holders and holding them accountable to the people. The study uses three different but complementary methods (content analysis, critical discourse analysis and semi-structured interviews). The first two methods are employed in analysing the headline news content and editorial opinions respectively of two Nigerian independent newspapers, using the framework of the Liberal Media Theory (Watchdog Model). The study also used semi-structured interviews to obtain additional information from Nigerian journalists on their professional practices and working conditions. Overall, the study seeks to establish whether the Nigerian independent press is performing the watchdog role of the press as a facilitator of democracy and good governance, by providing critical news and opinions on key issues like political violence and corruption, or whether the press is serving as a lapdog of the government in power, the political parties or the ruling economic and political power elite. The main findings of this study indicate that despite numerous challenges which impinge on journalists‟ professional practices, and the challenges imposed by ownership and control structures, the Nigerian press has played a critical watchdog role in focusing news coverage on the serious political and social problems of violence and corruption in the country‟s democratisation process, while also challenging the abuse of power by the ruling economic and political elite, although with some regional variations in performing the watchdog role. Overall, the study contends that although the Watchdog Model may appear out-dated in the Western world as a basis for evaluating media performance, this model is still very valid in understanding the normative function of the press within the context of Nigeria as an emerging democracy in Africa.