This study investigated the Punch and Guardian newspapers’ coverage of terrorism January and June 2009. The study employed the agenda setting theory and the social responsibility theory of communication as the theoretical framework for the study. The content analysis research design was adopted with the aid of a 3-content categories coding sheet. The sample comprised of 156 newspaper issues published across four months by the two selected Nigerian dailies including the Punch and The Guardian newspapers. Data generated were analysed with the aid of frequency Tables and simple percentages through the coding sheet. Findings of the study revealed that the Nigerian newspapers gave adequate coverage to reports on terrorism; despite the fact that most of the stories published by the newspapers on the issue were published on the back pages of the newspapers making it seem as if prominence was not accorded the reportage on terrorism. Therefore, the study concludes that since most of the pages devoted to the reportage on terrorism in the newspapers were placed on the back pages, the story may not have gained the deserved attention from the members of the society. The study however, recommends that newspapers management should complement the high coverage they give to issues that affect the society by featuring news stories on such issues in prominent pages such as the front pages to gain the due and deserved attention from the members of the society.
1.1 Background of Study
In the past five to six years or more, terrorism has continued to assume more complex and worrisome dimension, not only in Nigeria but across the globe. This trend has posed serious threat to the security of lives and properties. Acholonu (2012) argues that the prevalence of terrorism across the globe are indicators of global danger. The incidences of terrorism indicate that the world today is growing more insecure for humans.
Afowowe (2012) opines that terrorism has continued to claim the lives of millions and destroys property worth billions. Ofomegbe and Orittesesan (2012) describe terrorism as activities that involve the use of violent acts with the intention to create fear (terror) in the society. It is perpetrated to achieve a religious, political or ideological goal or objective. The use of violence to create fear is usually targeted at non-combat or military personnel, who are civilians and mostly affected by terrorism. Throughout human history, there have been countless threats to the security of human lives. In recent time, these threats have continued to lead to destruction of human life and properties, while the society incur devastating loss.
While all this takes place, the mass media which include newspapers have been described to be effective in carrying out campaigns and public awareness to assist members of the society to confront problems which affect their societal life and existence. Asemah (2011) avers that newspaper as an arm of the mass media play indispensable roles in the society in this direction as it serves as agent of tremendous change with strong influence on human activities. The influence of newspapers cut across economics, politics, health and education. In March 28, 2018, the Punch Newspaper on pg. 20, had a Letter to the Editor titled: Dapchi girls’ abduction: Some unanswered questions.
Temofeh (2017) argues that through newspaper reports on acts of terrorism, members of the society have been kept abreast of the activities of the terrorists. In Guardian Newspaper report in March 8, 2018, the news story on pg. 5, titled: Why insurgency may not end soon, by Fayose, is a good example to illustrate how newspaper reports on acts of terrorism, provide information on terrorism to the audience.
Acholonu (2012) observes that while terrorism is becoming a common occurrence across the globe, mass media channels such as the newspapers are responsible for bringing the activities and objectives of terrorists to the attention of members of the society. For instance, In March 7, 2018, the Punch Newspaper on pg. 40, had a news story titled: Boko Haram no longer a serious fighting force, says Buhari. Newspapers serve the role of watch dogs in the society and are considered major stakeholders in bringing about positive change and value re-orientation among the members of the society. Through newspaper reports, information, knowledge or ideas are enhanced in the society. These reports also transmit information and ideas which counter the objectives of terrorists in the society as the roles of the newspapers in the society include; formation of conscience, advocacy and mobilisation. The Punch Newspaper in March 7, 2018, had a Letter to the Editor on pg. 18, titled Solution to Nigeria’s security challenges.
Information disseminated through newspaper reports have the capacity to foster social change and helped further the agenda of those who share similar goals with it. Anaeto, Solo-Anaeto and Tejumaiye (2009) and Imoh (2007) argue that newspapers are relevant to the society in the sense that they inform the public by supplying facts, opinions, statistics, photos and illustrations on issues, events or phenomenon that affect the society. Newspapers have the capacity to educate, members of the society on issues that threaten their social existence, by going beyond the basic facts to in-depth analysis through opinions pieces, feature stories, columns and editorials. Through all these, newspapers provide records of human activities and events in the society. A good example to illustrate the provide records of human activities and events in the society, is the Guardian Newspaper features article in March 8, 2018, pg. 45, titled: How insecurity is ruining education in Nigeria.
Acholonu (2012) argues that through newspapers reports and coverage on terrorism, people’s opinions and feelings on terrorism are shaped and influenced in the society. Newspapers relay techniques and experiences which enable members of society better appraise their own social conditions as humans. Ahuja (1997) cited in Tejumaiye and Adelabu (2007) opines that newspapers exert credible influence in the formation of consciousness and concerted action against problems confronting the society. Newspapers provide information to members of the society and the more information members of the society get from the newspapers, the more they interested they become in the issues being reported.
Temofeh (2017) avers that the newspapers also play the role of agenda setting in their coverage of acts of terrorism. This clearly explains that through newspapers coverage on terrorism members of the society can be directed on how to handle the issues relating to terrorism. A typical example that better illustrate the agenda setting role of the newspapers in reporting acts of terrorism is: a news story in the Guardian Newspaper in April 7, 2018, where a report mon p.6, was captured: Okoh Kicks Against Amnesty for Boko Haram Member.
In several other instances, newspapers have fallen short of its role as watchdogs in the society. Tejumaiye and Adelabu (2011) aver:
While it is hard to conclude their positive contributions outweigh their negative ones and vice-versa, many internal and external problems have plagued the Nigerian mass media including newspapers. The problems range from: harsh economic environment, harsh political and social environment, intimidation, assassination, closure harassment, outright ban, low professionalism, poor remuneration system, unfriendly legal environment, ownership manipulations, incompetence, and poor adherence to professional ethics and standards. All of these have contributed to the almost lack of purpose for the Nigerian mass media. For instance, the government owned mass media is premised on not biting the fingers that feed them… many private stations that are supposed to be critical and unbiased in their views have been compromised by ownership influence and sectional interests.
In such moments, newspapers have been accused to serve the interests of their sponsors and advertisers with little or no concern for the public interests, as the quest to make profit or serve the hidden agenda of a select, which in most cases are top in their scale of preference. The Guardian Newspaper in March 8, 2018 on pg. 12, had a classical example suggesting how newspaper served the hidden agenda of a select in their coverage: Nigeria, EU, UNODC Renew Commitments Against Terrorism.
Acholonu (2012) notes that newspaper reportage on terrorism exerts considerable influence in either curbing the trend or in encouraging the acts of terrorism in the society. This is because when mass media channels like the newspapers engage in reporting terrorism, they perform not only the function of dissemination of information but also a tool to advance the objectives of terrorists. A good example to illustrate how the newspapers coverage exerts considerable influence in either curbing the trend or in encouraging the acts of terrorism in the society is: The Punch Newspaper report in March 8, 2018 pg. 3, where it was reported that: Okah, Nwabueze, bag life imprisonment for Independence Day bombing.
Having established the considerable influence newspaper reports have in the society, this study seeks to investigate the extent to which newspapers coverage influence terrorism in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Nigerian newspapers wield considerable influence in the society as it serves as channel through which members of the society are informed, educated, enlightened and mobilised to take part in activities in the society. Newspapers have the power to direct public attention and chart the way in confronting certain issues. This is evident in the agenda-setting function of the mass media.
Through its coverage, newspapers also perform the status conferral function. As such, newspapers report on terrorism can accord status or credibility to acts of terror in such fashion where members of the society are either encourage or discourage from supporting such acts. Over the years, newspapers have proven to have the capacity to create awareness, accelerate information flow and mobilise members of the society to take part in activities which the newspapers play up before them. Therefore, to what extent has newspapers reports on terrorism influence Nigerians to either support or join the fight against terrorism?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objectives of this study are;
- To find out the level of prominence the selected Nigerian Newspapers gave to the terrorism.
- To ascertain the magnitude of reportage accorded to stories on terrorism by the newspapers.
- To point out the direction on terrorism which were highlighted by the newspapers.
1.4 Research Questions
The following questions were formulated for this study:
- What level of prominence did the selected Nigerian Newspapers gave to acts of terrorism?
- What magnitude of coverage did the newspaper gave to stories on terrorism?
- What direction/slant on terrorism were highlighted by the newspapers?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The issue raised by this study is of immense benefits to achieving globe security, especially towards achieving the security of lives and properties across the globe and particularly in Nigeria. Across the globe, more prominence seems to be accorded to issues on terrorism especially in countries such as Nigeria where there is upsurge in the acts of terror daily. Newspapers while performing its agenda-setting role in the society, also serve as platforms or channels through which issues that affect the society are highlighted. Therefore, the outcome of this study would be useful to Nigeria as well as the world at large, as state actors across the globe continue to collaborate in finding common ground to eliminate the monster called terrorism.
This study would be of immense benefit to students of Mass Communication and students of journalism in higher institutions of learning. It will also benefit mass media organisations in understanding the concept of communicating information that affect the security of human lives and safeguarding of properties since it is only through newspapers, which are aspects of the mass media, that members of the society get informed on issues that affect their social living.
Meanwhile, students of Mass Communication in other higher institutions and all those who wish to conduct further research in this area would also find the outcome of this study useful as it would serve as a valuable reference material in the future.
1.6 Scope of Study
This study focuses on the newspapers reports on terrorism. Since every research has its time and limit, the scope of this study is the newspaper reportage or coverage of terrorism between January and June 2018.
Therefore, this study will cover newspapers reports on issues relating to terrorism between January and June 2018 and appreciate the extent of the newspapers coverage on the issues of terrorism. Two Nigerian newspapers were selected to include: The Punch Newspaper and Guardian Newspaper. These newspapers were chosen purposively owing to their circulation strength, availability, wide readership as well as wide range of coverage on issues of national interest such terrorism.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
The major limitation for this study was the time it took the researcher to undertake the manifest contents of the selected newspapers, couple with the fact that the researcher was also pre-occupied with other academic activities such as lectures, and other forms of assignments during the period of undertaken the study.
1.8 Operational Definitions of Terms
Communication: This is the process of sharing of information which includes five basic factors: an initiator; a recipient; a vehicle or channel; a message and an effect. The initiator designs or encodes the message and transfer the message through the vehicle with the intent of stimulating an effect.
Coverage: Coverage refers to the amount or totality of news and information provided by the newspapers on issues through its contents over a specific period. It can also be defined as the way the Nigerian newspapers reported or gave account of issues pertaining to terrorism.
Newspapers: Newspapers are written publications containing published news and information on issues periodically published daily. It refers to the newspapers that covered and reported about the issues relating to terrorism in Nigeria.
Print media: The print media refers to the channels of communication that present information on paper, published, printed medium such as newspapers and magazines as opposed to the broadcast media.
Prominence: Prominence refers to the position or dimension to which newspapers placed on a given issues or news item that affect the society.
Security communication: Security communication refers to the study and practice of communicating with the aim of promoting or providing security information that will impact the socio- economy development of the society.
Society: Also refers to as a social system consists of a collective people who undertake different types of tasks to achieve common goals and solve common problems.
Terrorism: This refers to the use of violence by groups in a society to create terrors through acts of destruction and sabotage of human lives and properties.
1.9 Theoretical Framework
The theoretical framework for this research is built around the agenda setting theory and the social responsibility theory of communication.
Agenda Setting Theory
The agenda setting theory is a theory of mass communication that provides explanation on how the media through its programmes and contents consciously and unconsciously list, plan or outline things, events or issues to be considered. The media according to the postulations of this theory set agenda for the public to follow through their coverage of issues, events or things in the society. The mass media achieve this by focusing attention or highlighting silent issues in the society through their coverage thereby making people to think along that line. The mass media according to the postulations of the theory of agenda setting play their drums and in the process the members of the society begin to dance to the tune of the music played by the media. The mass media in acting as agenda setters to the members of the society, the mass media may not tell the members of the society what to think about but what to think about.”
Considering this, McQuail (2010), posits that the term “agenda setting” was a coinage of McCombs and Shaw in 1972, in describing a phenomenon which had been noticed and studied in the context to the role the mass media played during electioneering campaigns. The main thrust of the theory holds that the news media through it coverage to issues, events and things in the society indicate to the public who are members of the society what the main issues of the day are and as such it is reflected in what the public perceives as the main issues. Trenaman and McQuail (1961) as cited by McQuail (2010) argues that “the agenda setting theory strongly suggest assumptions that members of the society think what they are told but at no time or level do they think what they are told.” Findings of studies on the agenda setting theory over the years after the development of the theory indicated that there is a correspondence between the order of importance given in the media to ‘issues’ and the order of significance attached to the same issues by members of the society and government officials.
The assumptions of the theory revolve around how the media play an active role in giving importance to issues which they highlight as important to the society. Nwabueze (2006), added that the media frequent coverage and highlighting or emphasizing prominence to issues in the media, members of the society attached importance to those issues the media have giving prominence to more than others.
Newspapers reports, or coverage on terrorism outlines and highlight the importance it attached to the issues of terrorism. Governments and Nigerians began to pay serious attentions and attach importance to terrorism as result of the consistent and sustained coverage of activities of terrorist groups by mass media channels such as the newspapers. Newspapers coverage on issues and events surrounding terrorism indicate to Nigerians what the main issues relating to terrorism areas reflected in pages of the newspapers. This in a way influence the growth of terrorism in Nigeria.
The way in which acts of terrors are reported on the pages of most newspapers most often ends up suggesting to Nigerians that terrorism has come to stay with them. The corresponding importance attached reporting terrorism on the pages of newspaper plays significant role in escalating the objectives of terrorism and how members of the society and government officials react to it.
The agenda setting theory neglected the possible effects on what people think concerning who is important, where important things happen and why things are important. In it assumptions, the agenda setting theory did not give credence to who is important in the coverage of the media that makes the individual important for the media coverage, the location the importance things happen and why are the things or issues highlighted by media coverage are important to the members of the society. All these are not considerations to the postulations of the theory.
Another point of concern not reflected in the assumptions of the theory is the definition of what the agenda portrayed by the media is, are the issues reflected on the media coverage the agenda or priorities of the media, those of the public who are members of the society or those of the policy? In a way, was the coverage or highlight or prominence accorded to reports on terrorism, the priorities or interest of the media, members of the society or policy of the government?
The other theory that supported the theoretical framework of this study is the social responsibility theory.
Social Responsibility Media Theory
The social responsibility media theory is a development of the libertarian theory of the press. Okunna (1999) cited in Asemah (2011) described the theory as a modern theory which was developed in the mid-20th century. The thrust of the theory, was developed from the growing concern and awareness that in some important respects, the free market idea in the media popularise by the libertarian theory has failed to fulfil the promises of the media and deliver expected benefits to the members of the society.
Asemah (2011) argues that the social responsibility media theory is anchored on the notion of a free press acting responsibly to the society. This indicates that the media which enjoys considerable freedom from the government is obliged to be responsible to the communication needs in contemporary society.
Ojobor (2002) cited in Okujeni (2013) opines that the theory postulates that the operations and activities of the mass media practitioners and the media as institutions in the society can only be guarantee when the society is safe for all. Therefore, the mass media must consciously assist the society to achieve considerable safer environment for all its members.
In addition, the thrust of the theory indicates that the mass media in appreciation for enjoying considerable freedom in disseminating information to the members of the society must be accountable and responsible to the social needs of the society.
McQuail (2010, p.147) argues that a social responsible media should ‘provide a full, truthful, comprehensive and intelligent account of the day’s events in a context which gives them meaning’. It should ‘serve as a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism’ and be a ‘common carrier of the public expression’. The media should also give a ‘representative picture of constituent groups in society’ and also present and clarify the ‘goals and values of society’.
McQuail (2010) however, highlighted the principles of the social responsibility media theory to include the following:
1. The media have obligations to society, and media ownership is a public trust.
2. News media should be truthful, accurate, fair, objective and relevant
3. The media should be free, but self-regulated
4. The media should follow agreed codes of ethics and professional conduct.
5. Under some circumstances, government may need to intervene to safeguard the public interest.
Terrorism in Nigeria has continued to assume worrisome dimensions. It threatens the survival of the society and human lives and properties. Terrorism in Nigeria accounts for the loss of thousands of human lives and the displacement of the living. Properties worth billions are lost the scourge of terrorism.
However, the thrust of this theory emphasizes the responsibility of the newspapers channels of communication in the society with strong influence in the society. It can influence the de-escalation of terror activities. Newspapers like other channels of the mass media are expected to be socially responsible and accountable to the sustenance of the society and can be effectively deployed in winning the war against terrorist. Since most newspapers in Nigeria enjoy considerable freedom from the control of government, it is therefore, expected and obliged to be responsible in communicating meaningful information that discredit the objectives of terrorism, which is chiefly to spread fear and terror in the society.