Late American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, musician, philosopher, and founding father who served as the 3rd president of the United States from 1801 to 1809 once said, “where it’s late for me to decide whether to have a government without a newspaper or a newspaper without a government. I would not hesitate to prefer the latter”.
Basically, Jeffeson is emphatically emphasizing the importance of journalism as a potent organ for sanity restoration between the excess of the ruler and the frivolity of the ruled, and as a potent instrument for social engineering and development.
No doubt, the importance of proper information dissemination about events which guide the affairs of man cannot be over stressed. Therefore, in this generation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), no man would be excused for not having enough information to help understand his world.
Most Nigerian Journalists are hard-working. They do their job with passion, panache and enviable zest. They strive hard to be ahead . They have the nose, eyes and mind for big stories. They do all of these most times without little or no commendation from their employer. But unfortunately, there are TV station in Nigeria where reporters are owed salaries for three years running.
Fellow Nigerians, do you know that some Journalists can hardly afford nice clothes, shoes or even cars to move around?. Do you know that a number of journalists regularly trek to event venues for lack of transport fare and get to event venues in sweaty, smelly, oozing shirts?
Journalists in Nigeria are treated like orphans. We feel less concerned about the plight of our newsmen. They abandon families to travel to unsafe territories to amplify the voices of the oppressed. Some even get killed, maimed or kidnapped at times.
Though, we are told it’s a thankless job, but they have bills to pick up. His kids hardly see him at home. His take home, if at all he gets it, finishes on arrival. We hardly cut them some slack. We see them as all-knowing, infallible and magicians. But we often make haste to call them unprintable names each time their stories fail to align with our biases or self myopic considerations.
Nigerian journalists are typically paid wretched salaries, and even the pittance to which they are entitled is often owed for months at a stretch. A former editor with Nigeria’s ThisDay newspaper some years ago became something of a celebrity in local media circles after an Abuja court awarded him damages against the newspaper’s publisher.
The plaintiff, Paul Ibe had in 2011 filed proceedings against his former employer, seeking payment of outstanding monthly salaries and other allowances. According to Ibe, “I went to court not because of the money but because of the principle involved, every labourer deserves his pay.” The former ThisDay editor was awarded more than $5,000 (£3,000) in damages
A colleague, who was a reporter with one of Nigeria’s popular newspapers, said his boss often justified his non-payment of salaries by saying: “I’ve given you a platform to make money. Use it.” He was referring to the opportunity to collect payment from individuals or organisations in exchange for publishing their stories.
It is common for “brown envelopes” containing cash to be handed out during press briefings – a practice that has been going on for so long that many journalists now see as their rights. After covering an event, they linger expectantly until the envelopes stuffed with cash arrive. With this kind of goings-on, you cannot expect the average Nigerian journalist to be fair in the presentation of facts.
It is difficult to ascertain whether corruption in Nigeria’s journalism emanated from pressure by the political and business elite, or if the media themselves initiated jukebox journalism. Aside these, some media organizations actually want to pay their workers but government tax has been killing the organizations.
Also, most private broadcast organizations in Nigeria run on diesel for 24/7. With this, how do you expect them to gather money to pay its workers? The Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has also been compounding the problems of most private broadcast organizations across the country with unnecessary threat and sanctions, thereby crippling the organizations. Believe me, it is only in Nigeria that journalists work from January to December without salaries, no leave and hardly go on courses.
It is high time practising journalists called the bluff of greedy, self-serving employers who see reporters as mere working tools and not the professionals they are. For all this anomalies to come to an end, Journalists must be properly remunerated for the work they do. Salary payments when due, pension, insurance, transport, airtime and data allowances, among many others are things that need to be put in place to attain the goal of journalism welfare.
Government’s support for media is not a new concept. There are lots of countries around the world where governments are financially supporting media in the public interest without editorial influence. Also, direct grants and indirect support to private organizations media will go a long way in bringing out most journalists from the current ‘orphan-like’ conditions.