NEWSPAPER COVERAGE OF POLICE BRUTALITY TO CIVILIANS
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1.1 Background of the study
Any publication containing current public News, editorial, feature article and advertising printed for sale and published periodically or daily is seen as a newspaper. It belongs to the first category of the media whose other categories was built on; it is like other media which primary function is to inform, educate, enlighten, and entertain and surveillance. Despite this, it has a unique quality of remaining dominant over centuries. It is essential to point out that the birth and growth of Nigeria press is a historical process in which many individuals participated without foreseeing what the ultimate product of their labour to be. Print journalism started in Nigeria in 1846 with installation of a printing press at Calabar by the Presbyterian mission with sole aim of increasing the literary level among local people through the writing of short essay on various subject particularly religious matters. Despite the fact that the Calabar experiment fail, it set the ball rolling for Newspapers production in Nigeria. In 1854, a missionary turn-journalist Rev. Henry Townsend established his own printing press and inaugurated a printing school in the missionary compound in Abeokuta and by 1854 founded a newspaper called Iwe Iroyin. This was the first Newspaper which was for the reading pleasure of the Egba people. Before it folded in 1867, it’s circulation was about 3,000 per day. The first Newspaper founded by a Nigerian was by ritoyi Agasa in Lagos in 1914 a pro-government paper which was hated by many and then in 1921, Hernest Ikoli established the Africa messenger which only lasted for five years (Skogan, 2018).
This research titled “Newspaper Coverage of Police Brutality to Civilians” will scrutinize reportage of the mentioned media and how the media act as the conscience of society it finds itself in. Brutality as a social phenomenon is fundamental aspect in all human life. Nigeria has thus been referred to as one of the most prone nation of the world because of her low social security level and social activities which are against the law in nature. Brutality can be seen as “physical violence; great cruelty, an instance of cruel and violent treatment or behaviour” according to (Fishman, 2017). According to Martinelli (2017), police brutality is one of several forms of police misconduct which involves undue violence by police members. Widespread police brutality exists in many countries and territories, even those that prosecute it. Although illegal, it can be performed under the color of law. However, police brutality, a longstanding civil rights issue, has returned to the forefront of Nigerian public debate (Garafalo, 2018). Once again, it is bad news about the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). On June 8, 2018 three police officers, an inspector and two sergeants, exhibited the condemnable brutality for which the police and virtually all security agencies in the country have become notorious. The errant policemen accused a citizen, Mr. Ademuwagun Temitope Solomon, of being a fraudster and sprayed him with tear-gas at the Chinese Town in Ojota area of Lagos. An asthma patient, Solomon collapsed and developed an asthmatic fit. The officers who perpetrated the act were from Area ‘H’ Command of the force in Ogudu, Lagos, and had been on a neighbourhood patrol assignment when the sad incident occurred (Garafalo, 2018).
The police force is an agency of the executive arm of government that maintains law and order in any society. Unlike the military, the police investigate and prosecute cases in the law courts. It plays a vital role in ensuring peaceful coexistence among the citizens without which the society would be a jungle. In Nigeria, the police, though a necessary evil, has lost the confidence of several Nigerians because of poor attitude to work, unethical conduct and ominous disregard for fundamental human rights (Ohonbamu, 2015). But surprisingly, some members of the Nigerian Police had received international recommendations and award from UN peace keeping assignments. Could the Nigeria society be responsible for the unethical behavior of the Nigerian police as it is a microcosm of the larger society? Is it because the policemen work with morally bankrupt politicians? Is it because of the get rich quick- syndrome in Nigeria? In civilized societies such as the US, UK, it is a thing of pride to have a family member in the police, but the reverse is the case in Nigeria where stubborn children in the family who probably had dropped out of school are encouraged to apply for enlistment into the police. Many parents have done this to get rid of miscreants from the family. Nothing good would come from a police force made up of poorly educated rascals known in Nigerian parlance as ‘area boys’. Such policemen are ready tools in the hands of blood-thirsty and renegade politicians who would pay any amount of money to ensure that terror is unleashed on perceived formidable opponents and intimidation of their supporters. The ignoble role played by the police and other security agencies in Ekiti and Rivers States during the governorship elections in 2014 and 2015 respectively cannot be forgotten so soon (Ajomo and Okagbue, 2016).
Against this backdrop, it is therefore, not strange to have illegal detention, extrajudicial killings, etc. This was why the then Inspector General of Police, Aliyu Atta, in July 1991, angrily said that if Nigerians were civilized they would stone policemen seen on the street because the bad things done by them were more than the good things they have done. The government also has to be blamed here. Why should policemen be deployed to an area to restore law and order without making arrangement for their accommodation and feeding? Why scheduling policemen for courses without paying them the allowance? Why transferring policemen from one state to another without an accommodation in the barracks? If policemen are made to fend for themselves under these circumstances, some may be pushed to misbehave (Ikhariale, 2016). In buttressing the assumption that the unprofessional behavior of the Nigerian police pitiably contravenes the rule of law, this study shall point out cases of police brutality to civilians.
Nigeria is obviously experiencing increase in police brutality rate. In a single edition of our daily Newspaper, television report or radio report less of police brutality activities. Police brutality can occur anywhere but more tense in urban areas due to the emphasis which is placed on urbanization of modernization of cities, towns at the cost of the rural areas leading to rural-urban migration. This union result has lead to the increase of police brutality at both sides due to the over strengthening of infrastructure or under utilize infrastructure by the able police and civilians. Nevertheless, Newspaper like other media is primarily a disseminator of information which could be in views formal, editorial, feature report e.t.c. This dissemination of information is about the activities of mankind either on his personal, social life, politics, economy, crime, sport or leisure for the purpose of informing, educating, entertain or enlightenment.
- History of case study
Guardian Newspapers is an independent newspaper published in Nigeria by Guardian Newspapers limited. The newspaper came into circulation in the early 70s. It was the main competitor to the Punch where it came to advertising, albeit not for circulation. Guardian Newspapers is one of the few relatively durability is as a result of its broad range of issues and contacts and non partisanship. The “guardian” in its early stages of circulation was one of the few dailies that did not publish advertised obituaries. But since 1989, the policy has changes and elitist advertisement now makes a large percentage of its revenue (Okechukwu, 2015).
The “Guardian” is a liberal paper, committed to the best traditions and ideals of republican democracy. It is committed to the principles of individual freedom, but believes that all citizens have duties as well as rights, it owes allegiance to no political party, ethnic community, religious or other interest group. The “Guardian” as part of what it stands for, does not, in principle, object to the ideology of free enterprise, since this would be inconsistent with its commitment to individual liberty and freedom. The “Guardian” believes it is the duty of the state to ensure that less privileged citizens have reasonable and fair access to the basic necessities of life. With its International Headquarters in Lagos, Guardian newspapers is circulated across the length and breadth of Nigeria and even abroad. It has three major departments, thus; editorial, business and mechanical. The Motto of the “Guardian” is consciences, nurtured by truth (Mokaogwu, 2011).
1.3 Statement of problem
Brutality by police in Nigeria, is not only widespread, but is also manifested in several ways. The report of a national study of the Nigerian criminal justice system provided an insight into the extent of police brutality in the country. According to the report, based on 882 respondents drawn from suspects in custody across the country: Nearly half of the accused persons interviewed (48.7%) stated that their arrest involved insult or abuse by the police. Roughly half (51.1%) of the accused persons interviewed indicated that their arrest did not involve use of physical force by the police, however, 35.9% were rough handled or slapped; 7.4% were beaten with a baton; and 3% were threatened with a gun. As to why force was used on them, 24.2% said they did nothing to warrant the use of force, 3% resisted arrest, while 1.6% returned verbal abuse. 5.2% were assaulted because they questioned police behaviour; and 22.5% were assaulted because they either refused to admit the offence or make a statement (Ajomo and Okagbue, 2016).
In addition, about 70% of the members of the Nigerian Police had no interest in the job at the time of recruitment but they just applied because they needed job to earn salary. You cannot do a job very well if you don’t like it said Ikhariale, (2016). So what do you expect from operatives whose sole interest is to make money Ikhariale asked? This can be likened to medical doctors who are supposed to be life savers as stipulated by the Hippocratic Oath but who decline treating dying patients especially accident victims who have no money to pay immediately. If the reason for enlisting into the police is just to make money rather than rendering quality security service, one can imagine the travails of rule of law and how the inalienable rights of the people are infringed upon by those statutorily empowered to protect same (Ikhariale, 2016).
It is essential that the attention of the public is focused on how newspapers coverage of police brutality, which is done by seeing the dimension of the coverage of police brutality. Thus, the problem of research is whether the Guardian Newspaper actually serves as the conscience of the society by mirroring such activities to the plane of discussion, whereby the public is enlightened about the recent development or what has become of the streets, homes of the country. And also to see whether the trend of Newspaper coverage of this issue has continued on the objectivity philosophy of the media and plays the agenda setting principle.
1.4 Aims and objectives
The general objective of this study is to examine newspaper coverage of police brutality to civilians.
The specific objectives are:
- To examine the volume or amount of coverage of police brutality in guardian Newspaper.
- To examine how Guardian Newspaper gives police brutality stories prominence over other social phenomenon
- To discuss the angles of police brutality report in the Guardian Newspaper
- To find out how the Guardian Newspaper report police brutality story locally
1.5 Research questions
- What is the volume or amount of coverage of police brutality in guardian Newspaper?
- Does the Guardian Newspaper give police brutality stories prominence over other social phenomenon?
- What are the angles of police brutality report in the Guardian Newspaper?
- Does the Guardian Newspaper report police brutality story locally?
1.6 Significance of the study
This study is centered on police brutality using the Newspaper industry. Thus, the study scrutinizes the Guardian Newspaper which is referred to as the press and also part of the fourth estate of the realm. This study illustrates the benefits of Newspapers even in the technological era whereby technology has consumed the media industry. This is to show how long the Newspaper Industry has come, what are the development of industry to both itself and the society when used as vibrant tool for sustaining the status quo or the change in it as it may be. It is significant to the field of journalism, students, researchers, lecturers and the society at large. It serves as reading and research material to any individual interest in x-raying the Newspaper Industry in Nigeria. Also individual sees to extent the Newspapers have played the role of watch dog or conscience to society and what way it does it whether objectivity or sentimentally.
1.7 Scope of the study
This study focuses on assessment of the use of the media in the coverage of police brutality. These findings of the study will primarily be centered on the analysis of Guardian Newspaper. This analysis will cut across news stories, features article, editorial, and advert e.t.c.