Human Rights Abuses Against Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria: Investigating Media Reportage

Human Rights Abuses Against Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria: Investigating Media Reportage

Stephen Damilola Odebiyi (University of Ibadan, Nigeria) and Olugbenga Elegbe (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0210-5.ch011


This chapter investigates media reportage of human right abuses and sexual violence against internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nigeria. Using the social responsibility theory, it analyses how the media frames, prominence, slant and whether the Nigeria media employed investigative reports in its reportage of human rights abuses against IDPs. The chapter through a quantitative content analysis of 157 editions of two purposely selected newspapers (the Vanguard NG and the Daily Trust), found that the media failed to contextualise the stories in relation to its causes, solutions and in identifying perpetrators for justice to be served, similarly, the media took sides with victims of the violations. It also failed to accord the required prominence and necessary investigative touch to such stories. It is recommended that there should be frequent trainings for journalists so as to safeguard professionalism in the industry.
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The media has often been described with such names as ‘fourth estate and watchdog’. This implies that as a distinct organ with the power of information, the media keeps watch on the activities of government (and its agencies), while at the same, it protects the underprivileged, that is, the voiceless in the society.

Salawu (2016) reiterates that the media stands as the defenders of the social values or put differently, they serve as the conscience of the society. He says that one of the attributes of the different media is that like the sun, they illuminate the crevices in the society. They expose hidden things and bring every conduct and misconduct to public glare for scrutiny (Salawu, 2016). On his own part, McQuail (2000) cited in Tejumaiye and Adelabu (2011) says that the media is the arbiter of right and wrong, the roving eye of daily judgment.

Meanwhile, Asemah, Edegoh, and Ogwo (2013) say that the media have a very crucial role to play in the promotion of human rights in any country. The media, according to Asemah et al. (2013), are champions of human rights. They act as the eyes, ears and voices of the public, drawing attention to abuses of power and human rights, often at considerable personal risk. Through their work, they can encourage governments and civil society organisations to effect changes that will improve the quality of people’s lives (Asemah et al., 2013). In addition, Pate (2011) notes that the task of the press in the process of safeguarding and advancing human rights is enormous.

Meanwhile, Oyero (2010) notes that though journalists have expanded coverage of human rights into new areas, many human rights issues, are under-reported by the media (ICHRP, 2002 cited in Oyero, 2010). He notes that much reporting focuses on violations of rights during conflicts; human rights-issues that are less visible, or have slow processes, are rarely covered. Oyero (2010) and Farra’u (2017) agree that the news media in Nigeria follow the traditional focus on human rights by centering attention primarily on civil and political rights and this demonstrates that human rights coverage focuses on a very limited definition of human rights. This therefore brings to the fore, the need to investigate human rights abuses against victims of conflicts in post conflict situations, and victims of manmade and natural disasters, like the IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), which is the focus of this research.

Furthermore, Hussain (2016, p. 3) cited in Apuke and Tunca (2018) notes that “the literature published on the displacement of people has not found too much rich or theoretically exact”. This is because the humanitarian community focuses more on the delivery of aid than on the documentation of research (Apuke, &Tunca, 2018). Ibrahim and Gujbawu (2017) say the situations of IDPs need to be presented to the world through various media in order for the general public to provide the aid they require. The news media are meant to demonstrate important roles (agenda-setting and framing of issues) so as to solicit aid for the Internally Displaced Persons through continuous and objective covering of the actual situation of IDPs (Ibrahim & Gujbawu, 2017). And when the case of IDPs has been of research concern, the focus has often been on coverage given to IDPs in terms of number of stories and prominence allotted to IDPs in newspapers as evidenced in the research conducted by Apuke et al. (2018), leaving out what they face in the Internally Displaced Camps (IDP), that is, research on IDPs have left out the coverage of human rights violations against IDPs.

Key Terms in this Chapter

IDP Camp: This is usually a safe shelter for displaced persons, where they are protected and taken care of before they eventually move back to their homes.

Human Rights: This refers to the benefits every human being is entitled to by the reason of the fact that the person in question is of the human race. It cannot be worked for or withdrawn by other persons from them.

Sexual Violence: This refers to having unsolicited sex with teenage girls and other women by the reason of the act that they are vulnerable.

Media Reportage: This refers to the form of presentation of stories on displaced persons by the media

Internally Displaced Persons: These are people who have left their homes as a result of the effects of conflicts, war, and other human and natural disasters, and now leave in make shift shelters in a safer place, away from their homes.

Human Rights Abuses: These are infringements on the dignity of other human beings, based on the fact that they are vulnerable.

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