PROJECT TOPIC- PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF INEC IN THE CONDUCT OF 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS: THE ROLE OF NIGERIAN NEWSPAPERS.

Abstract

The Nigerian press is made up of Nigerian citizens who are parts of our society but special in a way for their devotion to serve and protect the interest of the society through the functions they perform. For some years, the criticisms have always been that they are unprofessional, more often than not, they are accused of praise singing propaganda and unethical practices. In this research, the researcher’s purpose

is to find out if these marks of unprofessionalism re-occurred in the press report of 2007 General Elections in Nigeria. In doing this, a five chapter format was adopted. “Chapter one” is the introduction which contains among other things, the background of the study, the overview of the topic (Public Perception of INEC in the conduct of 2007 General Elections: The Role of Nigerian Newspapers),

statement of research problem, research questions and hypothesis, theoretical framework and operational definitions of terms. Chapter two is the literature review, which is where the researcher examines the work of other researchers related to the topic. “Chapter three” is the research methodology, (Content Analysis), the population size, (Guardian, Sun and Vanguard Newspapers), the

sample size (Thirty different editions; ten editions per paper), the tools for data collection, analysis and presentation (Tables for coding guide, coding sheet, chi-square and explanatory notes). “Chapter Four” is the data presentation and analysis followed by the testing of the hypothesis. “Chapter five” is the summary of the findings, conclusions and recommendation. The researcher gave five recommendations

including “that the press man is to the nation, in terms of peace, progress and development, what the medical practitioner is to a patient, and should therefore, see himself as such and refuse to be influenced by whatever will not be for the benefit of the masses.

PROJECT TOPIC- PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF INEC IN THE CONDUCT OF 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS: THE ROLE OF NIGERIAN NEWSPAPERS.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1   Background of the Study

The way the public perceive events, happenings and occurrences, is dependent on a number of factors, among which the available information to such people/public play the chief/dominant role. This is part of what was insinuated by Abraham Lincoln’s conception of democracy in the ancient Greek, when he said, “democracy is the government of the people, for the people and by the people”. Simply, he was talking of

collective participation, which is today seen as public opinion. Commenting on the potency of public opinion, Cutlip and Conter (1982) in Nweke (2001:70) stated that the power of the public opinion must be first understood and dealt with, being that it provides the psychological environment in which an organisation/nation prospers or perish”. Baskin and Aronoff (988) in expressing their view on the power

of public opinion, put it thus: “public opinion has always been a force in human events, leaders have counted the sentiments of the public to sustain their power and gain support for their actions, only those rulers who were believed to be gods or chosen by gods could afford to ignore public attitudes, … many depots, believing they held absolute power and were thus immune to public opinion, later lost their

heads”. If the power of public opinion is so enormous, therefore, its source is worth giving proper attention and all possible effort in studying for better understanding, lest the consequences of such negligence will be incalculable damage in any community, society or country. In the conduct of 2007 general elections in Nigeria, different people in different categories and classes perceived the

Independent National Electoral Commission in different ways and the reasons behind such perception by assumption is believed to have come from different sources like the mass media, which include the newspapers.

What then comes to mind is, how well do the press perform this function of opinion moulding/formation? Is it with all fairness and without bias? Is it free from the spirit of partisanship and ambiguities? Or better still, is it with a high level of professionalism?

PROJECT TOPIC- PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF INEC IN THE CONDUCT OF 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS: THE ROLE OF NIGERIAN NEWSPAPERS.

1.2   Statement of Research Problem

A media scholar has asserted that Nigerians have taken the western liberal assumption about the place of the mass media too uncritically, even in he western world, scholars are re-examining the role and/or the place of the media in the current and emerging development in a wired and globalised market dominated world…, whatever may be the validity and utility of the traditional liberal arguments on the role of the

press in the society, when they were first formulated in the last century, it was very clear that Nigeria and African countries were not part of the picture. Moreover, though quite a number of studies have been carried out by different scholars at  different times on the role of the press in politics, a big lacuna still exists that must have to be filled. Nigeria, since her time of political independence in 1st October

1960, have only had election in 1964/5, 1979, 1983, 1993, 1999, 2003 an the last 2007 general elections, a situation, Poopola in Nwosu (2003:59) described as a disturbing scenario rocked by crises. Except for the last two transition period from one democratic government to another, there has never been a consecutive transition period, and this makes the study of the role of the press in Nigeria’s elections a big

task, a necessity and all important, lest we will accept the general liberal assumption to our own detriment. Again, in the few elections conducted in the country so far, the report from research on the role played by the mass media has always been characterised by unprofessional practices which if not checked, according to Orhewere in Nwosu (2003:136) can mar the peace, stability and sustainability of

our nascent democracy. This unprofessional practices by the mass media in past elections are shown by Uche (1989); Nwosu (1990); Nzeribe (1992); Onyisi (1996) and Galadima and Enighe (2002) which describe the mass media (press) as being parochial to the point that ethical and ideological imperatives that preach fairness were thrown to the wind were discovered by Nwodu in Nwosu (2003) to have

repeated in the 2003 general elections, quoting his word: “In pursuit of parochial and tribal interests, the mass media succeeded in heightening tension in the land in addition to evoking images of war in the minds of unsuspecting audience. This re-occurring problem of unprofessional practices by media practitioners in pre-elections, elections and post elections reporting is what necessitated this study. It is to find out if the situation is still as it was in the previous elections or if it has changed.

1.3   Objective of the Study

In a nut-shell, the major objective of this study is to know the level of professionalism displayed by the Nigerian press in reporting the 2007 pre-elections, elections and post elections using the case of the Independent National Electoral Commission as the focus of study.

Other sub-objectives aimed at achieving the above are:

  1. To know the level the press observed ethical values in the reportage of the 2007 General Elections.
  2. To know how objective and fair they (the press) were in their reports.
  3. To know the level of “factuality” maintained by the press in reporting the INEC.
  4. To know if the re-occurring problem of partisanship in the past electoral reports still re-occurred this time around.
  5. To know the level of recklessness and ambiguity that was evident in the report of the electoral process.
  6. To know the possible solution(s) to the unprofessional practices by the mass media.

1.4   Significance of the Study

This study will help Nigerian press to know their true place in the political scenario of the country.

The result from this study will help the Nigerian newspaper companies to know if there are necessary adjustments to be made in news packaging or if the present style is to be maintained.

The result from this study will help the press to know how to support, promote and sustain democracy in the country through professional reporting.

The result will undoubtedly expose the unprofessional practices found in Nigerian press and how to overcome such practices.

PROJECT TOPIC- PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF INEC IN THE CONDUCT OF 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS: THE ROLE OF NIGERIAN NEWSPAPERS.

1.5   Research Hypotheses

(1)     H1     Nigerian press displayed a high level of ethical standard in reporting INEC in the 2007 General Elections.

H0     Nigerian press did not display a high level of ethical standard in reporting INEC in the 2007 General Elections.

(2)    H1      The press were highly objective and unbiased in reporting INEC in 2007 General Elections.

         H0      The press were biased and inobjective in reporting INEC in 2007 General Elections.

(3)     H1     There were no contradictory reports of INEC from different newspapers about the 2007 General Elections.

         H0      There were contradictory reports of INEC from different newspapers about the 2007 General Elections.

1.6   Definition of Terms

PUBLIC:              People in the society in general.

PERCEPTION:   The way people perceive events.

PUBLIC PERCEPTION: The way people in the society perceive events in general.

INEC:                   Independent National Electoral Commission – The body responsible for the conduct of elections in Nigeria.

ELECTION:        The process of choosing a person or group of persons for a position, especially a political position by voting.

ROLE:                  A part that one plays.

NIGERIAN:         In the context of this topic, it means something owned by somebody or people in Nigeria.

NEWSPAPER:   An unbounded, printed publication issued at regular intervals, which presents information in words, often supplemented with pictures.

1.7   Scope of the Study

This study though focused on the role of the Nigerian Newspapers, the result could be applicable to other developing countries that have similar mode of media operation.

Three national newspapers are studied but the result could be applicable to all the newspapers in the country that have similar mode of operation and under the same political environment. (With the reason given in chapter 3.3).

Though INEC is used in the study, the style/professional practice of the mass media in reporting political issues is the focus of the study.

1.8  Theoretical Framework

The agenda setting theory is the framework upon which this study is based. The theory according to Nwodu in Nwosu (2003) was developed by McComb and Shaw (1972). The theory arises as an end point of the 1968 study of American presidential election.

The idea of the theory as Lippmann (1922) has it, is that the media shaped pictures in our head. This was the origination of the idea by Lippmann.

Lawson (1984) puts it thus “The agenda setting theory posits that, the public agenda or what kinds of things people discuss, think and worry about and some times ultimately press for legislation about, is powerfully shaped and directed by what the news media chose in publicize.

1.9   Limitations of Study

Due to the problem of logistics, time and financial constraints, this study is limited to the period and publications of March, April and May.

This problem of time and finance faced by the researcher as a result of his studentship, also made him limit his sample population to few media houses (The Guardian, Sun and Vanguard Newspapers).

PROJECT TOPIC- PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF INEC IN THE CONDUCT OF 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS: THE ROLE OF NIGERIAN NEWSPAPERS.

 

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