This Government And The Leadership Newspapers

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

This Government And The Leadership Newspapers: Misconceived Or Preconceived Strife?

Democracy “is government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” In the phrase of Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Freedom and democracy are often used interchangeably, but the two are not synonymous. Democracy is indeed a set of ideas and principles about freedom, but it also consists of a set of practices and procedures that have been molded through a long, often tortuous history. In short, democracy is the institutionalization of freedom. For this reason, it is possible to identify the time-tested fundamentals of constitutional government, human rights, and equality before the law that any society must possess to be properly called democratic.

Everything today is about celebrity rather than the truth. Young people enjoy these shows because they want to be amused and the regular news is a turnoff with usually more bad than good news. Both of these shows take on a politically left slant and are rather funny considering how they present their misinformation, but I can laugh at them as well as with them. Sadly, even legitimate news sources stoop to omitting facts and misrepresenting a story to make it sound more sensational than it is to entertain us. This very media-house earlier this month, ran a story headlined “fallen critically ill,” and that “a team of medical personnel had been flown into the country from Saudi Arabia to attend to Yar’Adua, whose condition had been ‘unstable’ since late Thursday” when really they’d gone up.

Our local paper just ran a story intended to portray a senior being bullied by law officers. When I checked the story out there was far more to it than that and he was not unfairly targeted. The paper refused to clarify the story as its intent was to outrage people and they had to bend the truth to do it. Truth in journalism is dead!

Just as this “nigeria4betterrule” forum exposed an epidemic of fake news infiltrating local media across this country. The good news is there, mock news shows are outrageously funny. The bad news is, they leave viewers less politically informed than those who watch real news, a new study suggests. To all those who rail against the media for overzealous reporting, we should understand that modern society, with its size and complexity, offers few opportunities for direct democracy. Even in the northern Nigeria, where the caliphate town meeting is a hallowed tradition, or in the south where the “Obi’s and Oba’s” most communities have grown too large for all the residents to gather in a single location and vote directly on issues that affect their lives. This is pretty much how news reporting works.

Think about it. Most of these media houses get a scoop on a story and report on it. Most other major news agencies out there are watching. Imagine, somewhere out there, they probably have a few paid peons whose job it is simply to sit and watch and read the news all day, plus watch the CNN then read polluted foreign news report against Nigeria’s integrity, and report on any scoops the competition’s got. Within five minutes of Mr. Editor reporting on a story, every other news agency of any repute out there has their own stories running … the facts may or may not have been corroborated.

What I recommend is if you want to report on news, look at several sources — you’ll probably be able to parse a better story for this anyway. This is how I handle news — my area of focus is science fiction and fantasy, and here’s how I handle a news story that a major agency’s running: Hit their competitors, see if anyone has anything different to say, Hit the official web sites that might also have news — for example, if it’s a movie I’m reporting on, I’d hit the studio’s website, the major players (actors, producers, writers) websites’, etc.), and any official fan sites, hit the bulletin boards and forums where the fans are talking about the subject matter and see what they think about the news. Sometimes I pick up a few extra relevant links this way also. Fact check as much as possible; I’ve got a small list of professional contacts, check various web sites that collect facts on movies to verify back history, etc. And after doing all that, I can often write a much better article than you’d find on a major news site.

Nigeria media houses must try for multiple sources, combining facts into a new version; where stuff is quoted directly from ORIGINAL SOURCE. There are several benefits: Credibility and professionalism as noted by others, reduced risk duplicate content problems, suppose the original sources got their facts wrong? Now you are in the clear having cited others. It’s beneath contempt to publish someone else’s materials without proper credits. I would also give an honest straight link back to the source.

Beside this, we must understand that the origins of freedom of speech and press are nearly alike, because critical utterances about the government, either written or spoken, were subject to punishment under English law. It did not matter whether what had been printed was true; government saw the very fact of the criticism as an evil, since it cast doubt on the integrity and reliability of public officers. Progress toward a truly free press, that is, one in which people could publish their views without fear of government reprisal, was halting, and in the mid-18th century the great English legal commentator, Sir William Blackstone, declared that although liberty of the press was essential to the nature of a free state, it could and should be bounded.

If the pillars of democracy remains sovereignty of the people, Nigeria’s Government must base upon this consent to govern us; enact majority rule, minority rights, guarantee of basic human rights, free and fair elections, equality before the law, due process of law, constitutional limits on government, social, economic, and political pluralism and values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation, and compromise. But what constituted “blasphemous, immoral, treasonable, schismatic, seditious or scandalous libels” between this government and the leadership newspaper house? They were, in fact, whatever the government defined them to be, and in essence, any publication even mildly critical of government policy or leaders could lead to a term in prison or worse. In such a subjective judgment, truth mattered not at all.

Now that Mr. President, who was targeted by such lies became angry enough to file a lawsuit, there are some very good reasons why court actions for defamation may not be a good idea. President Umaru Yar’Adua’s threat of legal action against Abuja –based Leadership newspaper over its Saturday edition was done to keep local newspapers from a new round of speculations over his health until it is expedient for him to travel abroad for treatment.

Leadership alleged in a front page story that the troubled leader had “fallen critically ill,” and that “a team of medical personnel had been flown into the country from Saudi Arabia to attend to Yar’Adua, whose condition had been ‘unstable’ since late Thursday.” The newspaper noted that it was the second time in as many months that Yar’Adua was requiring “serious medical attention,” a situation that had resulted in his avoiding public functions. A reliable source told SaharaReporters that Yar’Adua’s health was so bad in the previous week that he had planned on traveling to Saudi Arabia en-route to Germany but had to cancel at the last minute because of the tone of the Supreme Court hearing of his election case. His advisers were quoted as telling him not to venture out of Nigeria as they feared that the Supreme Court might be swayed by those making the argument that he is physically unfit to rule.

This story itself is a rather confusing conglomeration of debatable “facts.” Let’s hit the nail on the head… Those who read the report are more politically aware than the average dolt. If you aren’t politically aware, most of the humour is destined to sail right over your head. The editors of these publications also enjoy making fun of network newscasts and their continuing slide into foolish fact-fudging for the sake of puffing silly stories with little actual relevance. The general public can only handle so much fear-mongering, slanted, biased, and redundant “news” each day; and these two shows are a refreshing resort to cut through some of the bogus nonsense we’re bombarded with by legitimate organizations. Show me a “real” news junky and I’ll show you an overly serious and depressing person who can’t see the forest for the trees.

The publicity of Yar’Adua misconstrued state of health that resulted from this lingering defamation lawsuit can create a greater audience for the false statements than the leadership-newspapers previously enjoyed. For example, assuming a newspaper or news show picks up the story of the lawsuit, false accusations that were previously known to only a small number of people may suddenly become known to the entire community, nation, or even to the world. As the media is much more apt to cover a lawsuit than to cover its ultimate resolution, the net effect may be that large numbers of people hear the false allegations, but never learn how the litigation was resolved.

Another big issue is that defamation cases tend to be difficult to win, and damage awards tend to be small. As a result, it is unusual for attorneys to be willing to take defamation cases on a contingent fee basis, and the fees expended in litigating even a successful defamation action can exceed the total recovery. Another significant concern is that, even where the statements made by the defendant are entirely false, it may not be possible for a plaintiff to prove all of the elements of defamation. Most people will respond to news that a plaintiff lost a defamation lawsuit by concluding that the allegations were true.

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