Journalism vs. 'Brown Envelopes'
[The following is an edited excerpt of a presentation by Shola Oshunkeye at The Media Project's regional conference in Accra, Ghana. Full text of the presentation is available for download below.]
CORRUPTION, LIKE A VIRULENT CANCER, blights whatever it touches.
If it perches on a preacher, it makes him teach the exact opposite of what Jesus taught. When it afflicts a judge, he stands the law on its head and perverts justice.
In the same manner, in our noble profession of journalism, when a journalist gets hooked on the ‘brown envelope’ malaise, or a media house engages in ‘cheque book journalism,’ professionalism and ethics get crucified.
Truth is either nailed to a bleeding cross, or it dons a variegated cloak. That is the nexus between the ‘brown envelope’ syndrome and the cancer of corruption.
There is a consensus among scholars and thinkers that there is no single universal concept of the word “corruption” or what constitutes a corrupt behaviour.
The definition that experts seem to adjudge as the most “succinct” definition, and which the World Bank often uses, is that which describes corruption as “the abuse of public office for private gain.”
Besides institutional conceptions, there are a lot of country-by-country definitions. For instance, Nigeria's Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 describes corruption as including “bribery, fraud and other related offences.”
Zambia defines corruption, under its Act of 1996 (No: 42), as "The soliciting, accepting, obtaining, giving, promising or offering of gratification by way of a bribe or other personal temptations of inducement or the misuse or abuse of a public office for private advantage or benefit".
While the definitions are wide, within the media, they have precise applications as defined by the Nigerian Union of Journalists’ Code of Ethics. Clause 4 of the Code says: “A journalist shall not accept bribes nor shall he/she allow other inducements to influence the performance of his/her professional duties.”
The Nigerian Guild of Editors concurs in Clause 7 of its Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists where it says emphatically that, “A journalist should neither solicit nor accept bribe, gratification or patronage to suppress or publish information.” It further states that “To determine payment for publication of news is inimical to the notion of news as fair, accurate, unbiased and factual report of an event.”
|Shola Oshunkeye - African Journalism in a Culture of Brown Envelopes.pdf||1.69 MB|