This study investigated the influence of newspaper reports on terrorism in Nigeria: content analysis of punch and guardian newspapers from January to June 2018. The study employed the agenda setting theory and the social responsibility theory of communication as the theoretical framework for the study. The content analysis research design was adopted with the aid of a 3-content categories coding sheet. The issue of terrorism has attracted global attention as a result of its enormous harm to the socio-economic fabric of nations. Its effects go beyond the physical damage to include psychological effects on the people. In Nigeria, many people have suffered acts of terrorism, including the media. The Boko Haram group had earlier complained that the media are under reporting their activities and therefore have sworn to launch mass attack on the media (Daily Sun, 2012, p. 3). This study, therefore, sought to examine newspaper coverage of terrorism in Nigeria with the aim of finding out the frame of presentation used by some selected newspapers in the country. This study adopted content analysis as its research design. The population of the study comprises of four selected national dailies namely: The Guardian, Punch, New Nigerian and Champion newspapers, which were studied for a period of six months (January to June, 2018). Using multistage and composite week sampling techniques, the study arrived at 384 editions of the newspapers to be studied. The Pearson r correlational statistical technique was used to calculate for intercoder reliability. The study found that 57.0% of the news stories reported on the pages of the selected newspapers condemned the act of terrorism as perpetuated by the terrorists in the country. It was also found that 45.8% of the news stories were reported on the front pages of the selected newspapers; indicating high prominence given to the issue of terrorism in the country. The study concluded that newspaper coverage of terrorism in the country have been impressive. It was, however, recommended that the media should improve on its investigative journalistic role to see if it would be possible to monitor the activities of these terrorists, in order to help government curb their actions.
1.1 Background of Study
In the past five to six years or more, terrorism has continued to assume more complex and worrisome dimension, not only in Nigeria but across the globe. This trend has posed serious threat to the security of lives and properties. Acholonu (2012) argues that the prevalence of terrorism across the globe are indicators of global danger. The incidences of terrorism indicate that the world today is growing more insecure for humans.
Afowowe (2012) opines that terrorism has continued to claim the lives of millions and destroys property worth billions. Ofomegbe and Orittesesan (2012) describe terrorism as activities that involve the use of violent acts with the intention to create fear (terror) in the society. It is perpetrated to achieve a religious, political or ideological goal or objective. The use of violence to create fear is usually targeted at non-combat or military personnel, who are civilians and mostly affected by terrorism. Throughout human history, there have been countless threats to the security of human lives. In recent time, these threats have continued to lead to destruction of human life and properties, while the society incur devastating loss.
While all this takes place, the mass media which include newspapers have been described to be effective in carrying out campaigns and public awareness to assist members of the society to confront problems which affect their societal life and existence. Asemah (2018) avers that newspaper as an arm of the mass media play indispensable roles in the society in this direction as it serves as agent of tremendous change with strong influence on human activities. The influence of newspapers cut across economics, politics, health and education. In March 28, 2018, the Punch Newspaper on pg. 20, had a Letter to the Editor titled: Dapchi girls’ abduction: Some unanswered questions.
Temofeh (2017) argues that through newspaper reports on acts of terrorism, members of the society have been kept abreast of the activities of the terrorists. In Guardian Newspaper report in March 8, 2018, the news story on pg. 5, titled: Why insurgency may not end soon, by Fayose, is a good example to illustrate how newspaper reports on acts of terrorism, provide information on terrorism to the audience.
Acholonu (2012) observes that while terrorism is becoming a common occurrence across the globe, mass media channels such as the newspapers are responsible for bringing the activities and objectives of terrorists to the attention of members of the society. For instance, In March 7, 2018, the Punch Newspaper on pg. 40, had a news story titled: Boko Haram no longer a serious fighting force, says Buhari. Newspapers serve the role of watch dogs in the society and are considered major stakeholders in bringing about positive change and value re-orientation among the members of the society. Through newspaper reports, information, knowledge or ideas are enhanced in the society. These reports also transmit information and ideas which counter the objectives of terrorists in the society as the roles of the newspapers in the society include; formation of conscience, advocacy and mobilisation. The Punch Newspaper in March 7, 2018, had a Letter to the Editor on pg. 18, titled Solution to Nigeria’s security challenges.
Information disseminated through newspaper reports have the capacity to foster social change and helped further the agenda of those who share similar goals with it. Anaeto, Solo-Anaeto and Tejumaiye (2009) and Imoh (2007) argue that newspapers are relevant to the society in the sense that they inform the public by supplying facts, opinions, statistics, photos and illustrations on issues, events or phenomenon that affect the society. Newspapers have the capacity to educate, members of the society on issues that threaten their social existence, by going beyond the basic facts to in-depth analysis through opinions pieces, feature stories, columns and editorials. Through all these, newspapers provide records of human activities and events in the society. A good example to illustrate the provide records of human activities and events in the society, is the Guardian Newspaper features article in March 8, 2018, pg. 45, titled: How insecurity is ruining education in Nigeria.
Acholonu (2012) argues that through newspapers reports and coverage on terrorism, people’s opinions and feelings on terrorism are shaped and influenced in the society. Newspapers relay techniques and experiences which enable members of society better appraise their own social conditions as humans. Ahuja (1997) cited in Tejumaiye and Adelabu (2007) opines that newspapers exert credible influence in the formation of consciousness and concerted action against problems confronting the society. Newspapers provide information to members of the society and the more information members of the society get from the newspapers, the more they interested they become in the issues being reported.
Temofeh (2017) avers that the newspapers also play the role of agenda setting in their coverage of acts of terrorism. This clearly explains that through newspapers coverage on terrorism members of the society can be directed on how to handle the issues relating to terrorism. A typical example that better illustrate the agenda setting role of the newspapers in reporting acts of terrorism is: a news story in the Guardian Newspaper in April 7, 2018, where a report mon p.6, was captured: Okoh Kicks Against Amnesty for Boko Haram Member.
In several other instances, newspapers have fallen short of its role as watchdogs in the society. Tejumaiye and Adelabu (2018) aver:
While it is hard to conclude their positive contributions outweigh their negative ones and vice-versa, many internal and external problems have plagued the Nigerian mass media including newspapers. The problems range from: harsh economic environment, harsh political and social environment, intimidation, assassination, closure harassment, outright ban, low professionalism, poor remuneration system, unfriendly legal environment, ownership manipulations, incompetence, and poor adherence to professional ethics and standards. All of these have contributed to the almost lack of purpose for the Nigerian mass media. For instance, the government owned mass media is premised on not biting the fingers that feed them… many private stations that are supposed to be critical and unbiased in their views have been compromised by ownership influence and sectional interests.
In such moments, newspapers have been accused to serve the interests of their sponsors and advertisers with little or no concern for the public interests, as the quest to make profit or serve the hidden agenda of a select, which in most cases are top in their scale of preference. The Guardian Newspaper in March 8, 2018 on pg. 12, had a classical example suggesting how newspaper served the hidden agenda of a select in their coverage: Nigeria, EU, UNODC Renew Commitments Against Terrorism.
Acholonu (2012) notes that newspaper reportage on terrorism exerts considerable influence in either curbing the trend or in encouraging the acts of terrorism in the society. This is because when mass media channels like the newspapers engage in reporting terrorism, they perform not only the function of dissemination of information but also a tool to advance the objectives of terrorists. A good example to illustrate how the newspapers coverage exerts considerable influence in either curbing the trend or in encouraging the acts of terrorism in the society is: The Punch Newspaper report in March 8, 2018 pg. 3, where it was reported that: Okah, Nwabueze, bag life imprisonment for Independence Day bombing.
Having established the considerable influence newspaper reports have in the society, this study seeks to investigate the extent to which newspapers coverage influence terrorism in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Nigerian newspapers wield considerable influence in the society as it serves as channel through which members of the society are informed, educated, enlightened and mobilised to take part in activities in the society. Newspapers have the power to direct public attention and chart the way in confronting certain issues. This is evident in the agenda-setting function of the mass media.
Through its coverage, newspapers also perform the status conferral function. As such, newspapers report on terrorism can accord status or credibility to acts of terror in such fashion where members of the society are either encourage or discourage from supporting such acts. Over the years, newspapers have proven to have the capacity to create awareness, accelerate information flow and mobilise members of the society to take part in activities which the newspapers play up before them. Therefore, to what extent has newspapers reports on terrorism influence Nigerians to either support or join the fight against terrorism?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main crux of this study is to examine newspaper coverage of terrorism in Nigeria with the aim of finding out the frame of analysis and presentation used by some selected newspapers in the country.
Other specific objectives includes to:
- Identify the direction of newspaper coverage of terrorism in Nigeria.
- Examine the level of prominence given to the news stories on terrorism in the country.
- Find out the depth of newspaper coverage of the issues of terrorism in Nigeria.
- Find out the economic implication of newspaper coverage of terrorism.
- Identify how government responded to the news of terrorism in the country.
1.4 Research questions
This study was guided by the following research questions:
- What is the direction of newspaper coverage of terrorism in Nigeria?
- What is the level of prominence given to the news stories on terrorism in the country?
- What is the depth of newspaper coverage of the issues of terrorism in Nigeria?
- What is the economic implication of newspaper coverage of terrorism in the country?
- How did government respond to the news of terrorism in the country?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The issue raised by this study is of immense benefits to achieving globe security, especially towards achieving the security of lives and properties across the globe and particularly in Nigeria. Across the globe, more prominence seems to be accorded to issues on terrorism especially in countries such as Nigeria where there is upsurge in the acts of terror daily. Newspapers while performing its agenda-setting role in the society, also serve as platforms or channels through which issues that affect the society are highlighted. Therefore, the outcome of this study would be useful to Nigeria as well as the world at large, as state actors across the globe continue to collaborate in finding common ground to eliminate the monster called terrorism.
This study would be of immense benefit to students of Mass Communication and students of journalism in higher institutions of learning. It will also benefit mass media organisations in understanding the concept of communicating information that affect the security of human lives and safeguarding of properties since it is only through newspapers, which are aspects of the mass media, that members of the society get informed on issues that affect their social living.
Meanwhile, students of Mass Communication in other higher institutions and all those who wish to conduct further research in this area would also find the outcome of this study useful as it would serve as a valuable reference material in the future.
1.6 Scope of Study
This study focuses on the newspapers reports on terrorism. Since every research has its time and limit, the scope of this study is the newspaper reportage or coverage of terrorism between January and June 2018.
Therefore, this study will cover newspapers reports on issues relating to terrorism between January and June 2018 and appreciate the extent of the newspapers coverage on the issues of terrorism. Two Nigerian newspapers were selected to include: The Punch Newspaper, Guardian Newspaper, New Nigeria and Champion. These newspapers were chosen purposively owing to their circulation strength, availability, wide readership as well as wide range of coverage on issues of national interest such terrorism.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
The major limitation for this study was the time it took the researcher to undertake the manifest contents of the selected newspapers, couple with the fact that the researcher was also pre-occupied with other academic activities such as lectures, and other forms of assignments during the period of undertaken the study.
1.8 Operational Definitions of Terms
Communication: This is the process of sharing of information which includes five basic factors: an initiator; a recipient; a vehicle or channel; a message and an effect. The initiator designs or encodes the message and transfer the message through the vehicle with the intent of stimulating an effect.
Coverage: Coverage refers to the amount or totality of news and information provided by the newspapers on issues through its contents over a specific period. It can also be defined as the way the Nigerian newspapers reported or gave account of issues pertaining to terrorism.
Newspapers: Newspapers are written publications containing published news and information on issues periodically published daily. It refers to the newspapers that covered and reported about the issues relating to terrorism in Nigeria.
Print media: The print media refers to the channels of communication that present information on paper, published, printed medium such as newspapers and magazines as opposed to the broadcast media.
Prominence: Prominence refers to the position or dimension to which newspapers placed on a given issues or news item that affect the society.
Security communication: Security communication refers to the study and practice of communicating with the aim of promoting or providing security information that will impact the socio- economy development of the society.
Society: Also refers to as a social system consists of a collective people who undertake different types of tasks to achieve common goals and solve common problems.
Terrorism: This refers to the use of violence by groups in a society to create terrors through acts of destruction and sabotage of human lives and properties.
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