IMPACT OF MEDIA LAW AND ETHICS ON JOURNALISM PRACTICE
(A CASE STUDY OF NUJ OGUN STATE BRANCH)
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The mass media are fundamental in ensuring purposeful and peaceful co-existence in the society. They are indispensable to the success of every human endeavour. Through their agenda-setting role, the mass media set the hierarchy of current issues, determine the extent of transmission and establish the terms of reference and limits of debate, which ultimately influence people’s actions, reactions, decisions and judgements on the issues so raised. However, the current trend in mass media practice has raised a controversy as to who really set the agenda – the media or the state. It is through the mass media that views in the society are made known, government policies and activities are publicized and opposing views are heard. Again, the mass media serve as the conduit for the various forms of interaction among the different facets of the society.
The strings of the interaction are normally controlled by many variables, such as the legal, ethical, political, socio-cultural, technological and economic factors. DeFleur (2015) points out that the interaction is necessary so that certain unacceptable and disruptive behaviours are not exhibited in the society.
Ewelukwa (2016) asserts that mass media contents should be packaged in a way that helps the media to perform their roles effectively as the media are a major force that stimulates national, international, socio-economic and global understanding. By reason of their strategic position in the society, the operations of the mass media are affected by many developments in the law, so is the practice of journalism. The central themes of some of these developments include the laws relating to the establishment, ownership, operation and control of the mass media. These basically reflect the scenario in Nigeria as well as the international picture. Despite the myriad of institutional and organisational pressures, journalists have to be knowledgeable in the laws which guide their practice and be professionally conscious so as to safeguard press freedom.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Media laws have been the greatest albatross to journalistic practice in Nigeria. From the colonial times to the modern journalistic era, the laws have often act as restriction on the much avowed talk about press freedom. Thus, some of the laws restrict the journalist right to secure information that may be of public interest. Even when the journalist goes the extra-mile to seek vital information about government activities which are tagged official secrets but against the interest of the state, he could be guilty of treason. Similarly, a fair criticism of the government policies and programmes could be calculated to
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