Obstacles to Effective Practice of Investigative Journalism

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Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: April, 2020

Walter Duru
Department of Mass Communication, Madonna University Okija Campus

Journal Full Text PDF: Obstacles to Effective Practice of Investigative Journalism.

This study is concerned with investigative journalism in Nigeria and how it can be of help to democracy. The problem is defined by its consequences such as obnoxious laws and natural problems that affect the practice of investigative journalism, lack of logistics and inadequate working conditions, poor remuneration, among others. Three research hypotheses were formulated to further strengthen the study and statistically tested using the Chi-square. The sample of the population was derived through random sampling technique and eighty (80) respondents were selected. The study found out that government polices hamper investigative journalism in Nigeria. It was also discovered that many journalists are more interested in political and criminal matters in the conduct of investigative journalism. Perhaps, this was the reason for many of the obnoxious laws in place. The study recommends amongst others, that Journalists in Nigeria need to take advantage of the existing laws that guarantee free access to information. It is also recommended that Government shows commitment to upholding the freedom of the press, while employers take welfare issues of Journalists more seriously. It is further recommended that the Nigerian Press Council be strengthened to enforce professional conducts in the practice of journalism.

Keywords: Nigeria, Investigative Journalism, Democracy, and Freedom of the Press.

1. Introduction
Investigative reporting is an aspect of journalism which entails turning up hidden information about government and its activities, official, private organization, individuals and general issues in the society. The practice of investigative journalism is replete with many hazards and other retrogressive obstacles. These problems comprise man-made and natural clogs in the practice of the profession, especially in Nigeria. The main reason which makes investigative journalism imperative to examine and excavate hidden facts on the side of the government, corporate bodies, individuals and other such issues for the good of the citizenship and the society is that no matter how bitter a story is, the Journalist believes that it will sway the people to act and for the condition to change for the better.
Consequently, the press, particularly, the privately-owned print media have in recent times taken some bold steps in digging out hidden truths, misconducts and corrupt practices of the government and the so-called bourgeois which has promoted democracy, human rights, justice and equity before the law.
Unfortunately, anti-press laws, illiteracy, poverty, hostility on the side of the journalists and poor logistics have been major setbacks to investigative journalism in Nigeria. Investigative journalism is a difficult task, especially in Nigeria. It is even more complex as many of the press systems are an integral part of national government. Many of the media in the country are owned by government at various levels. The privately-owned ones have been changed by obnoxious laws and natural problems that affect the practice of investigative journalism.
It is obvious that many people have become more educated and sophisticated that they are no longer satisfied with shallow reporting of issues and events. Unfortunately, some draconian laws, natural hindrances, logistics and funding challenges, as well as other personal constraints frustrate the efforts of investigative journalists to educate the people on events.

1.1 Hypotheses
The following hypotheses were formulated to further strengthen the study:
H1: Government policies hamper the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria.
H0: Government policies do not hamper the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria
H2: Stringent laws hamper the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria
H0: Stringent laws do not hamper the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria
H3: Lack of logistics frustrates reporters’ efforts to carry out investigations.
H0: Lack of logistics does not frustrate reporters’ efforts to carry out investigations.

2. Literature Review
2.1 Investigative Reporting
Wikipedia defines Investigative journalism as a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, such as serious crimes, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. It is expensive, requiring a good sum of money and time to accomplish the assignment. Investigative reporting, though related is different from public policy analysis. An apt distinction was given by Ullman (1995, p.2) in his comparison between pentagon papers project and Watergate reporting. According to him, “the pentagon paper published by other newspapers shed important and distributing new light on the US government action during the Vietnam War.” Reporters spend months analyzing the reports, putting it into context and comparing its findings with what was put by government spokesperson at the time. It was a valuable public service. It was not investigative reporting but public project. The pentagon papers was the work of the government, which produced the report in the first place.
Though investigative journalism is harzardous is nature with grave consequences for errors in reporting, Macdougall (1972, p. 189) underscores the relevance of this journalism enterprise in the protection of public interest. It aims at uncovering what appears to have been concealed and kept away from the citizens. Therefore, the primary objective of the press should be the protection of public interest, which is usually under threat.
Mr. Tunji Oseni, former Managing Director of the Daily Times of Nigeria Plc. agrees with this option (Icheku, 1999 p. 35). According to him, “those who conceal cover-ups may be exactly those working against the national interest and suppresses the growth of democracy.” Oseni therefore, sees investigative journalism as a responsibility which the press cannot avoid, pointing out that “the press becomes an accomplice, if it refuses to mirror the society because the picture may be unflattering’.
John Momoh, the chief executive of private owned channel Television also belongs to this school of thought (Icheku, 1999). Monoh is of the view that the press can find its role by applying the key tenets of the social responsibility theory of the press; the foremost, he said, being serving the political system by providing information, discussion and debate on public issues.
All the above literature on investigative journalism agree with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the obligation of the mass media. Chapter 11, Section 22 of the Constitution states that ‘the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people. The provision confers on the Nigerian press as in Britain: The status of the Fourth Estate of the Realm. But the complements end there, for in practice, government and the press are not always the best of friends. The idea of upholding the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people transcends the mere relaying of daily intelligence to the audience.
However, Williams (1983:27) points out that without a strong and trustworthy press, people would have almost no way to hold their government and other big institutions to account. He says: “Government, particularly the Federal establishment has vast powers to mislead the people and manage the news. Officials can conceal impending actions until their effects are irreversible. Other big institutions: corporations, unions, hospitals, Police Force prefer to cloak their decision-making process and tier performance from the scrutiny of the public whose lives may be deeply affected; and because raw strength or gut and trustworthiness of the press are requisite qualifications for making government accountable, it follows that such gut cannot derive from the constitutional provision that guarantees freedom to the press.
Mr. Ray Ekpu, the Chief Executive of Newswatch magazine agrees with the postulation, but adds that every press should strive to gain or earn political leadership as a major defender of democracy (Alex 1998, p.23). In doing so, he says, “the press must let itself be seen as medium that presents a fair, accurate and unbiased report of events, show dedication to the public right to know, show commitment to the pursuit of truth and uphold, as well as guard its freedom from interference. The implication of Ekpu’s view is that the press is not operating and should not expect to operate in a friendly environment in defense of democracy, but that no matter what the odds against it are, it should have capacity to surmount them, to make itself credible and guard its freedom jealously.

2.2 Depth and Investigative Journalism
In depth reporting is telling the reader all the essential facts in a way that brings the story into the reader’s environment. This means that a reporter should go beyond reporting events, gathering more news information than any single event can yield. Investigative reporting entails turning up hidden information. Such reporter opens closed doors and closed lips. The aim of this is to let the people know what is happening within their environment or in the society.
However, it is misleading to assume that all journalists are investigative reporters. A Reporter who looks beyond press releases and conferences is not necessarily an investigative reporter or journalist. The investigative reporter encounters may obstacles, both manmade and natural. Such obstacles include government policies to curtail the work of the journalist, the laws put to gag the press and lack of enlightenment of the masses on the benefits of investigative journalism.
This type of journalistic reporting has never been easy in any part of the world. It is harder in the third world because of the way those in authority perceive the works of investigative journalists. On the other hand, part of the skepticism about the ability of the journalist to do investigative reporting or be allowed to do it stems from the way some people see investigative reporting.

2.3 Differences Between Investigative Reporting and Routine Reporting
Investigative reporting differs in many ways from routine reporting. Investigative reporting is undertaken with the belief that some changes should be made. Routine news reporting aims at, only telling the story with no action necessarily being expected. Investigative reporting takes a longer format and a longer period of time to prepare for it, to gather information for the stories; routine news is written with less efforts. Press conferences, press releases, accident cases etc are examples of routine news reporting. Investigative reporting consumes more resources in staff, time and money because the stories are deemed to be of more than routine importance.
Investigative reporting is carried out with the idea that change will occur; reforms need to be carried out and wrongs corrected, not just because of a factual reporting on a subject. More attention is also paid to illustrating the investigative stories with good photographs, damages, graphs, line drawing or charts and maps. Most experienced reporters and editors are usually assigned to work in the investigative project because of its difficulties.

2.4 Expectations from an investigative journalist
Initiate Ideas
The investigative journalist is expected to initiate ideas for any chosen project. Ordinarily, reporters have certain ‘beats’ or areas which they are expected to cover. It is from these specialized areas that the reporters will often be asked for ideas for initiative and investigative stories. Investigative reporters are strongly advised to secure approval of their media organizations before embarking on controversial investigations. If the concurrence of the management was not received in advance, pressure might be brought successfully upon superiors to negate the investigative efforts

Personnel Needed
It has to be determined whether the work needs one or more reporters. If more than one, it has to be decided which reporter is responsible for what phase of investigations. Every other member of staff needed, such as photographers, artists, cartoonists and others must participate in the planning so that suggestions about good pictures will be made. Before embarking on an investigative project, the reporter should ask himself some basic questions, thus:
What information do I need?
Can I get it through records?
Through interview?
Have I exhausted these possibilities
When I identify myself as a reporter, will the target person(s) or corporate body tell me the truth?
Is the information I am asking of interest to my readers and listeners?
Do my readers, viewers/listeners care about the issues?
Do I need to conceal my identity in order to find out the truth?
In this case, answers to these questions would enable the investigative journalist to carry out the project successfully. In carrying out the project, the investigator should be aware that in reporting events, a choice has to be made between the perceived demand of state security and the principle of the sacredness of the fact. It should be borne in mind that if people are to perform their role properly, they must be educated and informed thoroughly so as to be able to hear varied voices and consider different viewpoints. Chijioke et al (1991) put the job of an investigative journalist as that of a ‘reporter who has frightening capacity to make people think, laugh, weep, as the message he brings to his readers or audiences can sometimes make them feel sad.

Where the buck stops
To what extent can investigative journalism bring change in a democratic society? Investigative journalism can do little to influence the course of events in any democracy. William (1983) asserts that ‘the press, however forever has no power to indict or impeach, no power beyond what is granted by its audience. A journalist can expose a situation but can an indifferent public to change it? This means that the journalistic enterprise of investigative reporting may be a useless enterprise in a society where the people are passive. An active and enlightened citizenry is therefore necessary for the desired changes to occur.
Akinfeleye, in Icheku (2000) stresses that the role of the press does not include the trail of public officers. In his analysis, he argues that it is very clear in the Constitution (of Nigeria) that the press is not given the power of trail of public officers on the pages of newspapers, magazines or on radio or television screens; rather the constitutional duty given to the press is that of monitoring and making public officers accountable to the people at all times, but in the discharge of this responsibility, many perceive it as amounting to media trial.

The Rule of Law
The rule of law simply means the supremacy of ordinary laws as administered by the ordinary courts. Dicey (1889:29) in his essay, ‘The Rule of the Constitution’ advocates that the law is the most important element of the state and an instrument of social organization.
Two conditions are essential: the rules apply equally to all citizens and the state is subject to the rules. How state institutions comply with the rule of law greatly affects the daily lives of the people who are very vulnerable to abuses of their rights. The rule of law is upheld through many channels, the most formal being the legal and judicial system. The rule of law protects life and personal security and guards against human right abuses.
The rule of law and investigate journalism work hand in hand. This means that in societies where the rule of law is observed in breach or where the judicial and law enforcement agencies are not efficient in carrying out their duties, investigative projects becomes a very risky enterprise.

Table 1 Administration and Distribution of Questionnaire
Questionnaire Frequency Percentage (%)
Returned Questionnaire 80 96.1
Unturned Questionnaire 5 5.9
Total 85 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
From the above table, 80(96.1%) respondents returned their questionnaire, while 5(5.9%) did not return their questionnaire, thus 80 returned copies of the questionnaire form the basis of data analysis.

Table 2 Sex Distribution of Respondents
Sex Frequency Percentage (%)
Male 59 73.8
Female 21 26.2
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
The above table shows that 59(73.8%) respondents are male while 21(26.2%) are female.

Table 3 Educational Qualification of Respondents
Academic Qualification Frequency Percentage (%)
Ph.D 16 20%
M.Sc/MBA 24 30%
B.Sc/BA/HND 30 37.5%
OND/NCE 2 2.5%
WASCE 8 10%
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
The above table shows the academic qualification of respondents. 16 (20%) of the respondents had Ph.D; 24 (30%) have M.Sc/MBA; 30 (37.5%) have B.Sc/BA/HND; 2 (2.5%) had OND/NCE and 8 (10%) had WASCE.

Table 4 Years of Experience of Respondents
Experience Frequency Percentage (%)
1-5 12 15 %
6-10 56 70%
10-15 8 10%
15 and above 4 5%
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
The above table shows the years of experience of the respondents. 12 (15%) of the respondents had 1-5 years of experience; 56 (70%) of the respondents have 6-10 years of experience; 8 (10) years of experience and 4 (5%) have 15 and more years of experience.

Table 5: Years of Experience as a Journalist
Categories Response Frequency Percentage (%)
Below 5 years 20 25
6-10 years 40 50
11-12 years 20 25
Total 8 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
From the table above, 20 (25%) had less than 5 years of experience; 40 (50%) had 6-10 years, while 20 (25%) had between 11 and 12 years of experience.

Table 6: Which Branch of Journalism did you study?
Options Frequency Percentage (%)
Editorial Writing 2 2.5
Feature Writing 8 10
Reporting 30 37.5
None 40 50
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
Table 4.1.6 shows the branch of journalism of respondents. 2 (2.5%) specialized in editorial writing, 8 (10%) specialized in features writing; 40 (37.5%) said reporting and 40 (50%) had no specific areas of specialization.

Table 7: Have You Carried out any Investigative Reporting?
Options Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 70 62.5
No 10 12.5
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
From the above table, 70 (62.5%) respondents have carried out investigation; while 10 (12.5%) of the respondents have not carried out any investigation.

Table 8 What Have you Investigated?
Options Frequency Percentage (%)
Clinical matters 35 43.75
Social mattes 10 12.5
Political matters 35 43.75
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
The above table shows that 35 (43.75%) of respondents have investigated clinical matters; 10 (12.5%) have investigated social matters; while 35 (43.75%) have investigated social matters ; while 35 (43.75%) have investigated political matters.

Table 9: Have You Encountered any Problem in our Investigation?
Options Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 60 75
No 20 25
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
From the table above, 60 (75%) of the respondents have encountered problems in investigation, while 20 (25%) respondents have not.

Table 10: Do you think investigative journalism is well practice in Nigeria?.
Options Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 18 22.5
No 52 65
Do not know 10 12.5
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
Table 10 shows that 18 (22.5%) of the respondents agree that investigative journalism is well practiced in Nigeria; 52 (65%) said no and 10 (12.5%) do not know the answer.

Table 11: Types of Problems Hindering the Profession (Investigative Journalist)
Options Frequency Percentage (%)
Self-imposed censorship 12 15
Government polices 44 55
Unwritten law and norms 24 30
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
Table 11 above shows that 12 (15%) said that self-imposed censorship hinders investigative Journalism; 44 (55%) said government policies, while 24 (30%) said unwritten laws and norms.

Table 12: What are the Reasons for Low Interest in Investigative Journalism?
Options Frequency Percentage (%)
Fear of intimidation 8 10
Stringent laws 50 62.5
Reluctance of source to give information 22 27.5
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
On the reasons for low interest in investigative journalism, 8 (10%) said fear of intimidation; 50 (62.5%) said stringent laws; 22 (27.5%) said reluctance of sources to give information.

Table 13: Does the Level of Educating of the Reporters affect the Profession?
Options Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 50 62.5
No 26 32.5
Do not know 4 5
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
On whether the level of education of the reporters affect the profession, 50 (62.5%) of the respondents said yes; 26 (32.5%) said no; while 4 (5%) do not know.

Table 14: Does Nigerians recognize the work of the investigative reporter?
Options Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 28 35
No 52 65
Do not know – –
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
The above table shows that 28 (35%) respondents agree that Nigerians recognize the work of the investigative reporter. 52 (65%) of the respondents said no.

Table 15: Can democracy and Civil Society Strive in Nigeria Without Investigative Journalism?
Options Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 20 25
No 60 75
Do not know – –
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
Table 15 above shows that 20 (35%) of the respondents agree that democracy and civil society thrive in Nigeria without investigative journalism, while 60 (75%) of the respondents said democracy and civil society cannot thrive without investigative reporting.

Table 16: Does Lack of Logistics Frustrate the Reporters’ Efforts?
Options Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 62 77.5
No 18 22.5
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
A total of 62 (77.5%) of the respondents agree that lack of logistics frustrate the reporters’ efforts, while 18 (22.5%) of the respondents said no.

Table 17: Is this Research Relevant to Investigative Journalism in Nigeria?
Options Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 75 93.75
No 3 3.75
Do not know 2 2.5
Total 80 100
Source: Field Survey, 2020
Table 17 above shows that 75 (93.75%) agree that the study is relevant to investigative journalism in Nigeria; 3 (3.75%) said no, while 2 (2.5%) did not decide.

Test of Hypothesis
Hypothesis 1
H1: Government polices hamper the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria.
Ho: Government polices do not hamper the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria.
The table is used as contingency table for the chi-square evaluation:
X2 ∑(0i-ei)2
where x2 is the value of the chi-square
oi = The observed frequency
ei = The expected frequency
∑ = Sum of
Decision: if x2 calculated is greater than critical value, you reject the null hypothesis and accept the alternative hypothesis while if the x2 calculated in lesser than critical value, you accept the null hypothesis and reject the alternative hypothesis.
Chi-square calculation table:
Responses 0i Ei 0i-ei (0i-ei)2
Yes 12 26.6 213.16 8.013
No 44 26.6 302.76 11.38
No idea 24 26.6 6.76 0.2541
Total 80 19.64
Source: Field Survey, 2020

Df = R-1
= 3-1
= 2
The critical chi-square table value of d2 19.64 is greater than the table value of 5.991; we then reject the null hypothesis and accept the alternative hypothesis that government policies hamper the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria.

Hypothesis II
H2: Stringent laws hamper the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria
Ho: Stringent laws do not hamper the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria
Chi-square calculation table:
Responses 0i Ei 0i-ei (oi-ei) 2 (0i-ei)2
Yes 8 26.6 -18.6 345.96 13.00
No 50 26.6 23.4 547.56 20.58
No idea 22 26.6 -4.6 21.16 0.7954
Total 80 34.37
X2 = 34.37
Df = R-1
= 3-1
= 2
The critical chi-square table value of d2 34.37 is greater than the table value of 5.991, we then reject the null hypothesis and accept the alternative hypothesis that stringent laws hamper the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria.
Hypothesis III
H3: Lack of logistics frustrates reporters’ efforts to carry out investigations.
Ho: lack of logistics does not frustrate reporters’ efforts to carryout investigations.

Chi-square calculation table:
Responses 0i Ei 0i-ei (oi-ei) 2 (0i-ei)2
Yes 62 40 22 484 12.1
No 18 40 -22 484 12.1
Total 80 24.2
X2 = 24.2
Df = R-1
= 3-1
= 1
The critical chi-square table value of d1 and level of significance 0.05 is 3.841. Since the calculated chi-square value of 24.2 is greater than the table value of 3.841, we then reject the null hypothesis and accept the alternative hypothesis that lack of logistics frustrates reporters’efforts to carry out investigations.

3. Conclusion
The study was properly carried out and based on the findings, it is concluded that actually, Government policies hamper the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria. Stringent laws hamper the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria. Lack of logistics frustrate reporters’ efforts to carry out investigations.

4. Recommendations
The study made the following recommendation:
a. There is need for specialization in the practice of investigative journalism. Such specialization will help to entrench professionalism and expertise, remove fear of intimidation and help the journalist to know the news sources and how to get to them.
b. Laws inhibiting Journalism practice should be repealed, as they constitute obstacles to effective investigative Journalism practice in Nigeria.
c. There is need for investigative reporters to be armed with modern equipments for ease of delivery in the practice of journalism.
d. The welfare of Journalism should be taken very seriously, while incentives are introduced to encourage to encourage performance.
e. Journalist in Nigeria take advantage of existing laws,such as the Freedom of Information Act to succeed.
f. The Nigerian Press Council should be strengthened to enable it deliver on its mandate.

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