Media partisanship is one of the 14 risk factors recently identified by a non-governmental organisation threatening the smooth conduct of the forthcoming elections. A medium of mass communication is accused of partisanship when in the discharge of its duties it fails to give equal opportunity to the parties involved.
Current events in Nigeria which centre on the activities of transition to another democratic dispensation has exposed the bias of some media houses against some political parties both in the country in general and Abia State in particular.
Some media houses express an open bias to some political parties at the expense of others and receive substantial favour from them. The media, as society’s watchdog and the fourth estate of the realm, do not have a constituency but should view all parties as their constituency. This should guide every action taken by the media. The unprofessional conduct displayed by some in the media has gravely jeopardised the ethical obligations of the media such as balance and objectivity.
The media are obliged by the ethical responsibility of balance to give a fair hearing to all parties involved and give equal consideration to the opposite party.
Akin to balance, another critical ethical issue of the media is "objectivity". Objectivity requires that the reporter depersonalises the story. By depersonalising the story, the reporter is expected to detach him or herself from the story by not inputting their personal opinions but reporting the story as it is.
As it is always argued that journalists are humans who are naturally bound to express some sentiments and emotions, the advice here is that even if such emotions and sentiments should come into play, they should not be obvious.
Because of what was termed the inadequacy of the old concept of objectivity, a new concept of objectivity has been born which requires “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. This requires the reporter to stretch themselves by engaging in in-depth writing, which entails conducting interviews where necessary, and analyses and research.
The argument here is that limiting the story to sources from interested parties may affect the objectivity because the interested parties may not be objective in their versions of events, so the need for impartial parties arises.
It is highly worrisome that some media houses in Abia have jettisoned professionalism to pursue a parochial interest by not affording the contestants equal opportunities.
One basic truth we should bear at the back of our minds is that electioneering periods will come and go, but professionalism remains and should not be sacrificed at the altar of pecuniary interest.
By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
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