This study was carried out to examine the role of mass media in the fight against police brutality with a particular reference to Endsars protest. To achieve this objective, three research questions. To achieve this objective, three research questions were stated to guide the study. The data was collected from primary sources. The primary data were collected with the help of a well-structured questionnaire of two sections administered to the staff of Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Port Harcourt. The collected data were analyzed with tables and simple percentages to analyze the research questions. The study revealed that there are dimensions of coverage adopted by mass media against police brutality during #ENDSARS 2020; there are specific contributions of Mass Media towards human rights reportage of #ENDSARS protests and there are challenges faced by mass media in reporting police brutality during the #ENDSARS protest. The study concluded with some recommendations that in Nigeria, the misuse of powers by the police manifested in police brutality of innocent citizens is worrisome. Therefore, all mass media and civil society organizations, including religious groups should encourage their members to speak out against human rights abuses and also demand for reorientation towards adequate reorganization that will uphold and respect for human rights and in the end restore man’s dignity.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was created in Lagos State in 1992, a time when Notorious armed robbers such as Shina Rambo6 were in control of the state (Midenda, 2017). It was created as a faceless police unit that performs undercover operations against armed robbers. Within almost two decades of its creation, the unit has spread across the various states of the country. The spread of the unit across the nation without a proper structure, accounts for some of it lawless characteristics. The current report of police brutality using the #Endsars on Twitter has brought public attention to it. The online campaign about the police brutality is new, however, Nigerian pop stars has over the years expressed their worries, fears and incidents of police brutality. The Nigerian movie industry, Nollywood has also portrayed cases of brutality and corruption within the Nigerian police force in their productions. Nigerians having been subjected to wanton arrests, extortion and extra judiciary killings, lunched a social media campaign using the has tag #Endsars on Twitter to put an end to police brutality. The #Endsars campaign started with the publication of a petition by convener Segun Awosanya. It was signed by 10,195 Nigerians and submitted to the Nigerian National Assembly to scrap the police unit. The Twitter campaign started on the 2nd of December 2017, when a footage of police officers attached to the unit shot and killed a man surfaced online. The campaign became a trending topic on Twitter with over 400,000 Tweets8 within twelve hours. In October 2020, Nigerians turned the online campaign to protest. Nigerians using 280 characters detailing their horrible and harrowing experiences with SARS, the dreaded unit of the police created to fight banditry. Before the campaign, there have been isolated cases of police brutality all over the country. However, it was during the campaign that the damage caused by such brutality was discovered. The campaign also exposed the level of rot within the police unit according to the convener of the campaign. The campaign further revealed that the police has no recognizable structure with no organized system of operation, officers of the unit act based on self-will with little or no regards for fundamental human right for citizens especially vulnerable youth.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Recently, without any misgivings, the use of social media has assisted social groups and movements and businesses to thrive in the dissemination of information and communication in the contemporary world; it has also influenced the dissemination of government communications, decisions, and policy making processes. With respect to the Nigerian youth #EndSARs# protests, which were organized to peacefully protest against police brutality and call for comprehensive policy and policing reforms in the country, social media channels were maximized by the youth in Nigeria to herald their anti-police brutality protests that consequently influenced the Nigerian government decisions in its security and social policy making. This development, therefore, calls for rigorous academic debate regarding the effectiveness of social media platforms as tools that citizens can maximize to influence government policies and decision-making processes in Africa and beyond.
The mass media no doubt are formidable mechanisms to project and protect the right of the citizens. The media stand as check to government excessive actions on the citizens. When things are wrong in the country, the media become the first to report these issues so as to correct them. The mass media do these through the functionality of information that educates and entertains. The essence is to ensure that the people are free from oppression against their rights as stated in the Nigerian constitution. This is with the hope to bring the desired change.
The Nigeria police force has the responsibility of protecting the citizens from human rights abuse. However, there have been cases of extra judicial killing of innocent citizens by the members of the Nigeria Police Force. Despite the role of the mass media in this regards little has been achieved when it comes to police brutality. Based on this, many people developed the mindset that the mass media have not played its surveillance and human rights responsibilities as the last court of the common man. Some arguments in public domain have it that Mass Media have been living to their responsibility of social change in governance and as such had played significant role in totality of human rights protection through investigative reporting.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study is to examine the role of mass media in the fight against police brutality with a particular reference to Endsars protest. The specific objectives include the following:
- To examine the dimensions of coverage adopted by mass media against police brutality during ENDSARS 2020.
- To determine the contributions of Mass Media towards human rights reportage of #ENDSARS protests.
- To identify the specific achievements of mass media on police brutality during the #ENDSARS protests.
1.4 Research Questions
The study is guided by the following research questions:
- What are the dimensions of coverage adopted by mass media against police brutality during #ENDSARS 2020?
- What are the specific contributions of Mass Media towards human rights reportage of #ENDSARS protests?
- What are the challenges faced by mass media in reporting police brutality during the #ENDSARS protest?
1.5 Scope of the Study
The study focused on the role of the Mass media in the fight against police brutality during the ENDSARS 2020 protest. The Mass Media are believed to carry out surveillance function and to expose or report criminal activities. Though, the protest was carried out on major parts of the country, the coverage by the Mass Media, however focus on the Abraka community which also experienced the protest.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The study will benefit Mass Media professionals and the general public concerning police brutality. The Mass Media professionals will gain more knowledge about their surveillance role towards the fight against police brutality. It is expected that with this insight, the media professionals will be exposed their roles in the fight against police brutality. The public on their part will be able to understand the role of Mass Media against police brutality during ENDSARS protest 2020.
Finally, this study shall become a reference materials for other researchers in Mass Communication and other related departments. It is expected that the study will add to academic knowledge.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
There is no study undertaken by a researcher that is perfect. The imperfection of any research is always due to some factors negatively affecting a researcher in the course of carrying out research. Therefore, time constraint has shown no mercy to the research. The limited time has to be shared among many alternative uses, which includes reading, attending lectures and writing of this research, also distance and its attendant costs of travelling to obtain information which may enhance the writing of this study was a major limitation.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Newspaper: This is a folded, unstapled piece of paper carrying news, articles, ads, and communication that is usually published daily or weekly. It is a media publication house that dwells on printed information for the public to consume news, updates and other contents. Newspaper is a determined information package that is circulated daily, weekly and monthly to serve a specific interest on social issues.
Television: Television is a genre in broadcast media that disseminates information using audio and visual signal. Television is a system for turning visual images (including sound) into electrical impulses, sending them through radio or other means, and displaying them on a screen electronically. It is the transmission of programming to a receiver or other screen through radio waves, cable wires, satellite, or wireless network in the form of still or moving images.
Radio: This is genre of Mass Media that disseminate information using audio signal to the audience. It is the transmission and receipt of radio frequency electromagnetic waves, particularly those carrying sound messages. Radio is a signaling and communication technique that uses radio waves. Electromagnetic waves with a frequency of 30 hertz to 300 gigahertz are known as radio waves.
ENDSARS: This covers hashtag and street protest by Nigerian Youths against police brutality.
Police Brutality: This is the extra judiciary activities of the police against common citizen in the society.
Mass Media: These are channels for mass communication for the purpose of informing, educating and entertaining the audience. The term “mass media” refers to a wide range of media technologies that use mass communication to reach a broad audience. There are a multitude of outlets through which this communication is carried out. Films, radio, recorded music, and television are examples of broadcast media that transfer information electronically.
SARS: This is acronym for Special Anti Robbery Squad created in 1992 to eradicate arm robbery in the society.
Social Mobilization: This is the function of the mass media that seek to motivate the public for social changes and transformation in the society.
Surveillance: This is the observation of behavior, a variety of activities, or information with the goal of acquiring information, influencing, managing, or guiding it.