Journalism and risk: the impact of Boko Haram attacks on news content and journalists’ patterns of news gathering and reporting in Nigeria (2011-2012).
Thesis DisciplineMedia and Communication
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Journalists reporting on conflict have always faced risk in their work. In recent times, the risks have changed to deliberate targeting and systematic killing of journalists by terror groups. Many reporters in Nigeria covering the activities of Boko Haram have been threatened, some had been killed and their news offices bombed by the Boko Haram insurgents because of dissatisfaction with the reports that the journalists disseminate.
This thesis employs the mixed methods of content analysis, discourse analysis and in-depth interview to investigate the impact of Boko Haram attacks on news content and journalists’ routine of news gathering and reporting in Nigeria (2011-2012). Ten journalists covering the activities of Boko Haram from both the northern and southern regions of Nigeria have been purposively selected for the interviews. For the content analysis and CDA, 897 and 120 news headlines on Boko Haram have been analysed respectively. These reports are also purposively drawn from the Daily Trust and ThisDay newspapers covering the three selected major periods of attacks on journalists and media offices in Nigeria (2011-2012).
This study finds that in Nigeria, constraints on reporting about terrorism are multi-faceted: they come from the terror groups, the media owners and security agencies/government. The thesis argues that due to terror attacks, journalists have been found to change the way they report the Boko Haram crisis: mostly focusing on related topics about the crisis but not on the nefarious acts of the Boko Haram group itself. The thesis also shows that the headlines represent the security agents/government in positive terms and offer excuses or justifications for their activities, even when these are violent, which could position them as defending the public against Boko Haram.
The research concludes that reporters in the North who are expected to provide first-hand information and on-the-spot reports of the crisis seem to be constrained by direct confrontations from the terror groups, which is due to their proximity to the epicentre of Boko Haram activities Therefore, while the policy makers in Nigeria are making efforts at ensuring safe reporting environment for journalists covering dangerous zones, special considerations should be made for reporters in the North where the stakes against them are higher, direct and real.
The thesis has confirmed that the reporters covering the Boko Haram crisis lack the requisite security and organisational support from the media owners. The finding also shows that based on the lack of security and organisational support, the reporters covering the Boko Haram crisis have become less committed following perceived personal risks from their reporting. The study concludes that journalists covering dangerous activities of terror groups need to be trained in order to heighten their awareness of what to expect, how to venture into the crisis and how to effectively report on it. The study also demonstrates that reporting by the newspapers on Boko Haram rarely attributes violence to Boko Haram directly. The headlines usually lack agencies for the violent actions. Most often, Boko Haram is not directly connected to the reported violence even in the story paragraphs. The thesis therefore argues that threats and intimidation from the Boko Haram group have engendered evasive techniques that are evident in most crime reporting in Nigeria.