In 2015, a Nigerian journalist uncovered alleged cases of rape and sodomy in a boys’ school in Kano, northern Nigeria. Reporting on a sensitive cultural taboo, the journalist discovered that school officials were aware of the abuse and were actively covering it up.
The journalist is now facing threats against his life for his report.
Renowned Nigerian investigative journalist Dele Giwa may be dead, memories of him still linger on.
The 1986 unresolved murder of Dele Giwa is back in the headlines after a retired police chief talked to the News Agency of Nigeria, revealing what he knows about the Giwa affair.
We’ve had journalists been jailed falsely, others forced to go on exile, threat to life, lack of adequate resources etc. Such is the ugly side of Investigative Journalism in Nigeria!
What solutions can be employed to these challenges and problems facing Investigative Journalism in Nigeria? Any gains ahead for Investigative journalism in Nigeria?
On the 16th of December 2016, online discussion/tweetchat platform; Discuss Nigeria discussed ‘Investigative Journalism in Nigeria’ with journalist Lekan Otufodurin of the Nation News, using the hashtag #InvestigativeJournalism
One might wonder what Investigative journalism really is..
Investigative journalism involves detailed investigation of reports, issues and others to ascertain the truth about them.
It is a systematic, in-depth, and original research and reporting to unravel the truth. It involves fact-checking, obtaining documents & data, verification & much more than normal reporting. It involves getting all sides of the story and perspectives on an issue.
Investigative journalism can be used to uncover corruption and other wrong doings. Accused persons can be named and shamed.
Documents revealing corrupt practices can be analysed, while financial statements can be reviewed (as seen with the recent Panama Papers leak).
With all these in mind, why then don’t we really see alot of investigative journalism works on the blight of (corruption affecting the) humanity crisis in NorthEast Nigeria?
Though it might seem like we aren’t seeing investigative works about NE, but sure they’re some, maybe few.. More still needs to be done.. And, there is the problem of limited access and resources for the kind of investigative work required. There are security issues too, as permission is required in some instances to get into some location.
Many media organisations can’t fund the story ideas for investigation by their reporters.
Only very few prioritize; the initiative to pursue investigative stories is usually left to the journalist.
41-year old Ahmad Salkida, an investigative journalist known for reporting terrorism, was arrested in September 2016 by the Nigerian army for ‘having links with the dreaded Book Haram insurgents’, . This isn’t the first time Salkida will be arrested – in July 2009, he was also arrested for ‘fraternising with Boko Haram’. This was around the time Book Haram’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf was killed by the Police force.
Salkida, a father of four, has come out to say his life has been threatened, for his works on terrorism in Nigeria.
With all these, what can be done to end threats to practitioners of Investigative Journalism?
It is important we continue to campaign against threat to life of journalists. Threat to life of journalists should be protested against and challenged when they happen.
Government should be reminded that threat to life is a violation of the rights of journalists.
And there should be solidarity among journalists when some practitioners are threatened.
Asides lack of resources (which limits extent of investigations), threat to life is the major challenge facing investigative journalism in Nigeria.
It’d go a long way if investigative journalists are registered & given licences like private investigators in the US.
There have been cases of violations of ethics of the profession (esp. by non professional journalists), it is important that Journalists learn to abide by the law even when investigating corruption cases or violation. Investigative journalism should not be an excuse for disregard for ethics of the professional.
For the decline in the standard of reporting/lack of regulation of online contents, there is need for continuous training of journalists and other content providers. Content writers and producers must abide by the standard of fairness, accuracy and respect for privacy. False/incorrect online content should be contested under the law to address abuse by online publishers.
A look at mainstream media, who are no longer the sole gatekeepers of information, folding up, makes one wonder why mainstream media isn’t mastering the use of new media to remain relevant in this age.
Obviously, if online writers don’t belong to any regulated group, it will be difficult to regulate.
On a final note, more than ever before, Journalists need to engage in thorough investigative journalism. There is need to fund investigative journalism works by media organisations and media support organisations. Allegations of corruption and misdemeanour should be regularly investigated and published.
Its important that powers & functions of the press as enshrined in chapter II section 22 of the 1999 constitution must be safeguarded.
Although we do have the freedom of Information act, what is required is compliance by government, as there are indications that not many are using the present one.