Over the years, Amnesty International, an Internationally recognised Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) on Human Rights with its headquarters in United Kingdom has rated Nigerian's human rights index to be poor. According to the Amnesty International rating, Nigeria is rated high among countries that violates human rights with 268th position. This rating has become an issue of concern not only to Nigerians but among International organizations such as Civil Right Defense, Anti Slavery International, International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).
The public outcry on human rights violation in Nigeria has been on the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The SARS is a unit of the Nigeria Police Force which was meant to tackle criminals in the society. Their high level violation of human rights was one of the reasons for the protest carried out in the year 2020by angry Nigerians. As an organ meant to carry out surveillance in the society, the Mass Media in Nigeria were expected to carry out this function effectively. The study thus focuses on the role of the Mass Media during the ENDSARS protest in 2020, most especially in Delta State.
1.1 Background to the Study
Mass Media are channels through which information is disseminated to the heterogeneous audience. According to Nwosu (2004), Mass Media are the agents of mass communication or channels through which communication is done. Mass communicationcannot be achieved without the mass media. One of the things that distinguished Mass Communication from other kinds of communication is the fact that it addresses a large section of a population rather than only one or a few individuals. Mass communication through the media enables the society to know what is happening around them. Nwosu (2004) observed that through the mass media, messages could be brought to persons in different socio-cultural, political, religious and intellectual situation. Their messages are targeted at persuading and influencing the people to have a positive change in behavior/attitude. Mass Media source for news from location of happenings, process the news and disseminate the information to locations that are not aware of the information.
There are basically three classifications of Mass Media; print, broadcast and social media. Newspaper is the first genre of the print Medium in Nigeria. The first newspaper in Nigeria started in 1859. It was published by Rev. Henry Townsend, the newspaper was called Iwe Irohin. The newspaper covered Yoruba people and was published forth-nightly. Modern newspapers in Nigeria came later. Newspaper is a compilation of news, entertainment, education, social events and people with organized presentation to the readers. It started with hard copy but now online versions are available. This change is as a result of technological development and the competition recorded in the media industry, (Olley and Chile, 2015).
Radio is the second Mass Medium to be invented. Radio is regarded as blind man’s theatre because the broadcasters are not seen but their voices are used to make a lot of imagery to the audience who in their minds create a picture of reality. Das (2013) noted that radio can be used as an effective tool in education in the formal field of knowledge and that it has actually been used to support a wide range of subject areas in different countries around the world. Radio is a genre of mass media that broadcast information through electromagnetic spectrum for the audience. Radio disseminates information through audio signal. In advanced technology, radio has opened an easy access to information and knowledge for audience across the world. With this, radio still plays a vital role in today’s world. Radio is more than announcement, news, and songs. Radio is about companionship and emotional connection with listeners (Gibraltar Regular Authority, 2020). Radio has the ability to reach across borders and can become a valuable source of information where reliable news is scarce . Even when there is no electricity, most radio sets can use battery. Radio is not just important for emergency announcement and communication during disaster, it also provides an outlet for regular community messages and activities such as local sports, community events, special events, local business advertising.
The next conventional Mass medium is the television. Television uses both audio and visual signals to transmit information. According to Owuamalam (2008), television is seen as an electronic medium of mass communication and has become more valuable in this present dispensation owing to the fact that it combines audio with visuals. The television makes room for reality in the world of broadcasting. Agbamuchue (2012), emphasised that television have maintained a very good influence on the people. It covers almost all parts of the country reaching public or private people everywhere. Besides, by providing information about the people, preserving culture, contributing to health education, business as well as education the broadcast media reflect and mirror what is happening in the society to the audience. It has succeeded in quickening the pace of development and education. It has enormous strength to attract both literates and illiterates and equal strength in effective communication. It can be said without any hesitation that television has greater influence on society such as in education, for teaching and learning processes. The television broadcasting covers the gathering, processing and dissemination of news, ideas and information about business activities, politics, environment, entertainment, energy, health, real estate, construction, agriculture, and just anything that is of human interest.
Mass Media are known to perform certain functions namely- information, surveillance cultural, integration, social, mobilization, ombudsman, entertainment and education. In this study, we will focus on surveillance, ombudsman, and social mobilization. Mass Media have been regarded as pivotal institution in the society because of the social change function. They have been recognized over the years as the fourth estate of the realm. This is because they stand as bridge between the government and the citizens. It is on this aspect, the mass media are used for opinion moulding and human rights activities. The Mass Media are also seen as social change instrument in any society. This is achieved through such contributions as opinion, editorial, column, debate, discussion, documentary and many others. The Mass Media over the years have been used to deliver political will of people and political ideology. One of such cases in Nigeria is the nationalist press. Through the nationalist press, Nigeria independence was delivered.
One of the recent human rights violation in Nigeria that the media reported exclusively is police activities in the society. According to Ajayi and Longe (2015), the police institution is meant to provide humanitarian services ensuring internal security and safety in the society. Alemika (1993), noted that police is the executive agency that is responsible for the prevention and control of crime and social violence. They operate by detecting, apprehending and persecuting perpetrators of crimes and violence in Nigeria. Kunan (2006), emphasized that it is difficult to come to single definition of police force because the mode of operation and function often time differ based of situational occurrence. According to Sullivan (2005), the uniting feature of the Nigerian police work is not only social function; rather it includes crime control, social service, and order maintenance of political repression. According to report by Nigeria Police Watch in 2011, the Nigerian police force takes responsibility of conventional policy functions and responsibility for internal security generally, support the prison, Immigration and Customs within or outside Nigeria as directed.
Based on the significant role of the Mass Media, there exist a relationship between police force activities and the Mass Media operation. Thus, the meeting point of the police and the Mass Media. The police ensure criminals are brought to book, the Mass Media ensure that such attribute are reported for the safety of the society as criminals are exposed. The Mass Media serve as a watch dog to the people reporting and covering events of human interest while the police makes the public aware of criminals and warn them against areas of dangers and bring criminals to their book. Therefore, the Mass Media and Police performs surveillance function. Ales (2006), stated that the question of media presentation of both police activities and crime in general is a very important issue which reaches beyond the organization of the police. In this fight for human right, the media try to see that crime rate reported is targeted at reducing crime. Unfortunately, the Nigeria police force is highly spotted in recent time due to its dubious acts of brutality of youth suspected to be Yahoo boys. This was the remote cause of the uproar in 2020. #ENDSARS was as a result of police brutality across the country.
According to Midenda (2017) Special Anti Robbery Square (SARS) was created in Lagos state in 1992, a time when notorious armed robbers such as Shina Rambo were in control of the state. This was created as a faceless police unit that performs undercover operations against armed robbers. Within two decades of its creation, the unit has spread across the various states of the country. The spread of the unit across the nation without a proper structure, accounts for some of its lawless characteristics.
Oleyede and Elega, (2018), accounted that the genesis of #ENDSARS protest was in 2017. A Twitter account was used to kick off the campaign. Nigerians started a social media movement using the hashtag #ENDSARS on Twitter to put an end to police brutality after being subjected to indiscriminate searches, extortion, and extrajudicial murders. The ENDSARS movement began with the publishing of a petition by convener Segun Awosanya. The EndSARS campaign became well-known in 2020, but its roots can be traced back to 2017, when a succession of high-profile acts of police brutality sparked debate on Twitter, in Nigerian mainstream media, and in public debate. It was signed and submitted to the Nigerian government by a total of 10,195 Nigerians.
The campaign was resurrected in 2020, after a video of SARS officers shooting a youth in Ughelli, Delta State, went viral on social media. The video infuriated Nigerian teenagers even more, and the demonstration gained traction and expanded across the country as a show of solidarity by youngsters in other sections of the country. In the account of Abosede (2020), 20th October, 2020 was the date youths took to the streets across the country to demonstrate against police brutality. According to the current report of police brutality using the ENDSARS on Twitter, has brought public attention to it. The online campaign about the police brutality is new, however, Nigeria pop stars have over the years expressed the worries, fear and incident of police brutality.
Significantly, the protest generated a lot of concern due to conflict and violence associated with the protest. The Mass Media are always at the epic centre in conflict reporting and this is why the Mass Media coverage was targeted at human rights violation and exposure for public conservation. When the protest lasted, the Federal government decided to replace SARS with Special Weapon (SWAT) in order to save the shame SARS has brought to the image of security agencies in Nigeria. Abosede (2020), stated that through in-depth reporting of protest using verified videos and picture in social media relating to human right violation in the country, the public come to stand with the truth because cases of human right violation can only be verified with Mass Media.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The mass media no doubt are formidable mechanisms to project and protect the right of the citizens. The media stand as check to government excessive actions on the citizens. When things are wrong in the country, the media become the first to report these issues so as to correct them. The mass media do these through the functionality of information that educates and entertains. The essence is to ensure that the people are free from oppression against their rights as stated in the Nigerian constitution. This is with the hope to bring the desired change.
The Nigeria police force has the responsibility of protecting the citizens from human rights abuse. However, there have been cases of extra judicial killing of innocent citizens by the members of the Nigeria Police Force. Despite the role of the mass media in this regards little has been achieved when it comes to police brutality. Based on this, many people developed the mindset that the mass media have not played its surveillance and human rights responsibilities as the last court of the common man. Some arguments in public domain have it that Mass Media have been living to their responsibility of social change in governance and as such had played significant role in totality of human rights protection through investigative reporting.
The study therefore seeks to establish how the mass media carried out its surveillance role or function during the 2020 #EndSARS protest against police brutality in Nigeria.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of the study are
- i. To examine the dimensions of coverage adopted by Mass Media against police brutality during ENDSARS 2020.
- ii. To determine the contributions of Mass Media towards human rights reportage of #ENDSARS protests.
- iii. To identify the specific achievements of Mass Media on police brutality during the #ENDSARS protests.
1.4 Research Questions
The study is guided by the following research questions:
- What are the dimensions of coverage adopted by Mass Media against police brutality during #ENDSARS 2020 ?
- What are the specific contributions of Mass Media towards human rights reportage of #ENDSARS protests ?
- What are the challenges faced by Mass Media in reporting police brutality during the #ENDSARS protest?
1.5 Scope of the Study
The study focused on the role of the Mass media in the fight against police brutality during the ENDSARS 2020 protest. The Mass Media are believed to carry out surveillance function and to expose or report criminal activities. Though, the protest was carried out on major parts of the country, the coverage by the Mass Media, however focus on the Abraka community which also experienced the protest.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The study will benefit Mass Media professionals and the general public concerning police brutality. The Mass Media professionals will gain more knowledge about their surveillance role towards the fight against police brutality. It is expected that with this insight, the media professionals will be exposed their roles in the fight against police brutality. The public on their part will be able to understand the role of Mass Media against police brutality during ENDSARS protest 2020.
Finally, this study shall become a reference materials for other researchers in Mass Communication and other related departments. It is expected that the study will add to academic knowledge.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Newspaper:This is a folded, unstapled piece of paper carrying news, articles, ads, and communication that is usually published daily or weekly.It is a media publication house that dwells on printed information for the public to consume news, updates and other contents. Newspaper is a determined information package that is circulated daily, weekly and monthly to serve a specific interest on social issues
Television: Television is a genre in broadcast media that disseminates information using audio and visual signal. Television is a system for turning visual images (including sound) into electrical impulses, sending them through radio or other means, and displaying them on a screen electronically. It is the transmission of programming to a receiver or other screen through radio waves, cable wires, satellite, or wireless network in the form of still or moving images.
Radio: This is genre of Mass Media that disseminate information using audio signal to the audience. It is the transmission and receipt of radio frequency electromagnetic waves, particularly those carrying sound messages. Radio is a signaling and communication technique that uses radio waves. Electromagnetic waves with a frequency of 30 hertz to 300 gigahertz are known as radio waves.
ENDSARS: This covers hashtag and street protest by Nigerian Youths against police brutality.
Police Brutality: This is the extra judiciary activities of the police against common citizen in the society.
Mass Media: These are channels for mass communication for the purpose of informing, educating and entertaining the audience.The term "mass media" refers to a wide range of media technologies that use mass communication to reach a broad audience. There are a multitude of outlets through which this communication is carried out. Films, radio, recorded music, and television are examples of broadcast media that transfer information electronically.
SARS: This is acronym for Special Anti Robbery Squad created in 1992 to eradicate arm robbery in the society.
Social Mobilization: This is the function of the mass media that seek to motivate the public for social changes and transformation in the society.
Surveillance: This is the observation of behavior, a variety of activities, or information with the goal of acquiring information, influencing, managing, or guiding it.