1.0    Introduction

1.1    Background to the study

          Philip Klapt (2002). Observes that during the 1990s, human rights issues became more prominent, both in public policy and public opinion. Many governments officially incorporated human rights principles in their policy frameworks, with legal implications. Many international institutions (notably the United Nations agencies) ‘mainstreamed’ human rights.

The media reflected this upsurge of interest in its coverage of human rights stories. Today the mass media make reference to human rights in their coverage more often and more systematically. As in all areas of reporting, influence of this process is disproportionately concentrated in Northern countries, where the most powerful governments and the most influential media organisations tend to be located.

This has significant implications on perceptions of human rights reporting, on what stories editors and journalists prioritise and how those stories are written. In general, human rights are perceived in Northern countries, and by international media, to be a ‘foreign’ matter that concerns principally less powerful countries.

By contrast, for journalists in the latter type of countries, for whom human rights issues are less distant, international reporting of human rights is perceived often to be inadequate, superficial and subject to bias precisely because Northern countries tend not to apply human rights principles to their own societies.

          Goldiom (2000), Maintains that though journalists have expanded coverage of human rights into new areas, many human rights issues are underreported by the media. Much reporting focuses on violations of rights during conflicts. Human rights issues that are less visible, or slow processes, are rarely covered. Human rights are still taken largely to mean political and civil rights, and the importance of economic, social and cultural rights is largely ignored by the media in their coverage of economic issues, including the international economy, poverty, inequity and social and economic discrimination.

          Philip Klapt (2002). The media do not explain and contextualise human rights information as well as they might. In general, data on human rights violations and on human rights standards are not lacking. However, the impact of this information on the public is not as great as might be expected. The media miss human rights stories because they do not pay attention to the specific legal and policy implications they have.

Often, they do not have adequate knowledge of human rights and its relevance to the material they are covering. The media frequently also miss the context of human rights stories. These shortcomings diminish the professional quality of reporting, and hamper the communication of information that is sometimes essential for understanding. They indicate that the profession should identify or improve reporting and editorial standards in order to enhance the accuracy and consistency of human rights coverage.

          Meanwhile, Human Rights Organisations have become increasingly active players in relation to the media. They have always been a key source of information. In recent years, the larger agencies have responded to the new media environment by developing their media operations. Most have press offices, staffed by professionals. To this end, the research will examine the level of Nigeria newspapers coverage of human right issues using the Punch newspaper and \Nigerian tribune as a case study.



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