Good Governance, Corruption and Developing Nations: The Role of the Media

Good Governance, Corruption and Developing Nations: The Role of the Media
By Abdallah el-Kurebe

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in a 1997 policy document described good governance as a measure that defines the processes and structures that guide political and socioeconomic relationships.

The key challenges facing Nigeria today is lack of good governance.  Coupled with this, is one of the major obstacles that have consistently thwarted our national progress and the actualization of good governance – corruption.

Governance is about making decisions and exercising power over people across the divides. Today, of global phenomenon is the word, ‘Good’, which prefixes the word ‘Governance’. These have produced a phrase – Good Governance to connote level-playing leadership in which everyone is pleased.

The characteristics of good governance include the rule of law, which requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially as well as full protection of human rights, across social divide; transparency, which implies the availability of information by those that government decisions are affected; responsiveness, which requires government’s prompt response to the needs of the people; and oriented consensus, which requires mutual, broad consensus by all over any issue that affects all. Others are equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency and accountability.

Corruption is defined by Advanced English Dictionary as simply, “Use of a position of trust for dishonest gain.” Other definitions are: “Abuse of power for private gain,” – The United Nations Global Programme Against Corruption (UNGPAC). According to the World Bank (1997), “Corruption is the abuse of power for private benefit which thrives when economic policies are poorly designed, education levels or standards are low, civil society participation is weak, public sector management is poor and accountability of public institutions is weak.”

UNESCO observes that “Corruption is one of the hardest issues states have to face in the governance process. Corrupt practices rob governments of the means to ensure the best life for their people, while many in government may feel that exposure of corruption erodes their legitimacy. Journalists who investigate corruption often face severe reprisals as corrupt officials threaten their place of work, their families and their reputation. It is important for governments to take a firm stand against corruption and to protect both whistle-blowers and the media that report on corrupt practices in government. Legitimacy is only aided by a governance strategy that sees independent investigative media as an ally and not as a threat.”

Going by these definitions of corruption, Nigeria could be said to one of the hard-hit by the cancerous monster. Corruption is exhibited everywhere and by virtually all classes of the people of the country – from the bottom to the top. No class of the society seem to be left out of the dreaded menace – the politicians, the civil servants, the army, the police, the customs, immigration, officials of anti-graft bodies, all professionals, etc.

The role of the media as to how any nation executes its functions is manifestly important and everybody’s eyes and confidence lies on the media. This is because the media shapes opinion and sets agenda on the direction that things should move.

Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American citizen who waged courageous war against corrupt practices in government and business in the US said: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.”

The media has globally contributed in shaping good governance as well as checked corruption, especially in the developed countries. Therefore,  the future of Nigeria as a developing nation could only be moulded by the journalists. This is because independence in the nation’s media is precondition for her nascent democracy to flourish. We need a media that would not simply repeat what those in government would like to hear. An independent and unbiased media therefore cannot be managed by the government. An unbiased and independent media would fight its monopoly by powerful interests either private or public. 
Governance of the media requires the dimension of investment by different sectors and interests so that the over-dependence on government for funding would be removed. The implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA), which is the legal and regulatory framework that encourages freedom and pluralism in public information, does not seem to work well. We have received by many media organisations against situations where efforts to access information, especially from the public institutions, are frustrated.

In developing countries, there must emerge independent media that would take the lead in assisting the public to understand their role to monitor public servants and politicians in the management of their resources.

Future training of journalists should emphasize the values of independence, professional ethics, gender equity and the role of media in democratic societies. This will in no small measure, strengthen the media’s internal professional standards and increase public confidence in the reliability of the information provided. 

Although the Nigerian media can perform the task of moulding a virile nation, devoid of corrupt tendencies, he however faces certain uncontrollable challenges. The biggest challenges that the media face in getting issues to the public’s attention include the noncompliance by public servants and politicians with the FoIA. Additionally, as witnessed recently where the military launched attack on Journalists, press freedom is a mirage in spite of existing laws that seem to protect their rights to gather and disseminate information.

What also seems to work for corruption, even among journalists is the most unfortunate attitude of some publishers who would recruit journalists and only issue them with identity cards, with no salaries whatsoever. In fact, most Nigerian journalists are not on the payrolls of their presumed employers.

Sometimes last year for example, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) had cause to temporarily seal off offices of some media organisations for non payment of salaries. Jobs of most of those who claim to be freelancers do not attract any commission or form of remuneration. All they enjoy is ID cards with which they roam around in offices and houses of politicians. Guess what happens.

In cases as enumerated above, a Journalist uses his own money (if he has) to look for stories and file them with the medium, just because he wants to be identified with a media house. Those affected publishers are comfortable with the situation where they give a Journalist ONLY an identity card to work with. He doesn’t have to pay any journalist for the services he offers. This breeds corruption in the media and therefore negatively affects unbiased reportage.

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