Role of Editors in Enforcing and Promoting Accountability By Dr. Dalhatu Sani Yola Department of Political Science, Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State

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  • Posted by: Imoh Robert


By the end of this session, participants will be able to

  • Understand the concept, dimensions and context of accountability
  • Become familiar with CRM, Ombudsman and Press Council typologies of measuring accountability
  • Appreciate parameters and processes for domesticating Media accountability
  • Appreciate democratic standards of accountability for promotion by the Media


  • Power is the essence of politics (Machiavelli, Karl Marx, David Easton et al)
  • As early classical theorists discovered, in framing govt, power is needed to control the governed but Govt shud also be obliged to control itself.
  • Power should be kept under control, domesticated to prevent its abuse and subjected to certain procedures and rules of conduct
  • To maintain social regulation, different systems of authority evolved: Democracy(Direct self governance, limited), Aristocracy, Oligarchy, Monarchy, Theocracy, Dictatorship – Democracy (large scale, inclusive, representative, complex form)
  • To STILL regulate use of power, political thinkers developed concepts and values of justice, equality, good life, good political order, rights, duties, obligations, legitimacy, morality, ethics etc
  • Today, talks about accountability expresses continuing concern for checks and oversights, for surveillance and institutional constraints on the exercise of power.

READ ALSO: The Media and Task of Consolidating Nigeria’s Democracy By Abdalla Uba Adamu Department of Information and Media Studies Faculty of Communication Bayero University Kano, January 20,2022 @NGE Capacity Building Workshop, Kano



  • Long military interregnum occasioned gross human rights abuses, state sponsored terror and damaged the nation’s combat effectiveness as top military officers become divided, inefficient & corrupt.
  • Contemporary practice of democracy evinces traces of military culture:
    • Politics is pursued like a warfare – some politicians act like Garrison commanders favouring combative postures over the democratic culture of dialogue AND negotiation; candidates imposition etc
    • Some Governors have dropped all pretense of political civilityclamping on political opposition and contrary voices, desecrating due process (Frank and Ukpere 2012)
  • Lingering maladies since 1999: Human rights violations, clientele politics, abuse of power, weakness of rule of law (rulers standing above the law instead of being subject to it)and weakness of public accountability (rulers freely acting as they please instead of being embedded in and constrained by the institutional infrastructure of check and balances)have dampened the initial euphoria of Nigeria’s transition from authoritarianism to democratic rule.
  • Consequently, there is
    • growing awareness for Govts to be accountable to citizens,
    • For Govts to be subject to restraint and oversight by other public agencies
    • For Govts to habituate itself to self-restraints like commitment to norms, procedure, legal rules and constitutional democracy.
  • Public accountability is now perceived as a key attribute of both democracy, democratic quality and essential ingredient for democracy’s long- term viability.


Political accountability is a broad concept encompassing oversight, monitoring, auditing, control, exposure and punishment. Semantically, it rests on twin pillars of answerability and enforcement. (Andreas Shedler 1999).

  • The answerability dimension is obligation of public officials and agencies to provide information about their actions and decisions and to justify them to the public and to specialized accounting bodies with the authority to monitor their conduct.
  • The enforcement dimension denotes the capacity of an accounting party to impose sanctions on the accountable party in cases of manifest misconduct in office.

Abuse of power is ******* redressed ******* in three ways

  • Subjecting power to threats of sanctions
  • obliging it to be exercised in transparent ways
  • Forcing it to justify its acts
  • Accountable agencies may ask accountable actors to inform about their decisions or ask them to explain their decisions -HoA: portale water in Kano
  • Exercising accountability involves elements of monitoring and oversight. This includes finding facts and generating evidence
  • Power shud bind itself to legal constraints and logic of reasoning. There must be dialogic relationship between accountable and accounting actors.


Besides the informational dimension (asking what has been done or what will be done), and its explanatory aspects (giving reasons for forming judgements), political accountability also contains elements of enforcement(rewarding good and punishing bad behavior).

  • Exercise of accountability that expose misdeeds but do not impose material consequence will appear weak, toothless, diminished window dressings
  • Rules must be accompanied by mechanisms of monitoring to prevent violation of rules from going unnoticed.
  • Mechanisms of enforcement must get ‘incentives right’ by keeping acts of cheating from going unpunished.


Humanitarian Aid Organizations consider accountability as means by which power is used responsibly. It is synonymous with responsibility and answerability.

  • Accountability connotes the right to have a say and the duty to respond.
  • HAOs demonstrate responsibility by using their resources efficiently, achieving measurable results(SMART) and being accountable to their donors, partners/stakeholders, and most of all, children and the communities they work with


  • Improving quality of programme design and implementation, making the work more relevant
  • Improving relationship with and acceptance by local communities, helps true partnership with communities
  • Reduces risks of fraud or of funds being used inefficiently
  • Reduces risk of harm to children and other beneficiaries by staff and representatives conduct (i.e. partner staff, contractors/consultants, community committee members) or by the design of the intervention itself
  • Demonstrates to donors that they deliver quality processes, such as accountability, in programme design and implementation



  • Establishing and delivering on commitments (setting realizable targets)
  • Staff competency (ensuring staff have technical and behavioural competencies to deliver our commitments)
  • Sharing information (we explain who we are, our projects, provide budgetary information, what behaviour people should expect from our staff and representatives)
  • Participation (discussing together, deciding together and working together with stakeholders across the programme circle, from consultation to collaboration, improving programme quality and participation)
  • Handling complaints (systematic listening, setting up formal mechanisms for people to express views and concerns on our approach, activities and impact and Staff behaviour)
  • Learning and continual improvement (reflecting community voice in M&E, reviewing complaints and informing about changes in implementation)


  • CRM is a system to promote, regularly collect, respond to and learn from community feedback, suggestions and complaints, including those related to Child Safeguarding and Code of Conduct.
  • enables beneficiaries and communities to hold SC & ACF to account
  • ensures that beneficiaries and communities have a voice to influence programmes by SC and ACF.
  • improves programme quality by making informed decisions based on information obtained from periodic analysis of Complaints and Feedback data.
  • M&E data to contribute to learning and improvement
  • contains a process for fast-tracking urgent or sensitive complaints such as abuse or exploitation.
  • improves community acceptance and reduces risk of the diversion of cash transfers away from the intended recipients
  • demonstrates complaints are regarded as helpful information rather than avoiding them and seeing them as failure.
  • details the steps and processes to be adopted from the time a complaint is made, up to the time a resolution complaints is finalised.


  • What is a complaint ; What is Feedback, Principles of CRM (transparency, confidentiality, non retaliation)
  • Scope and Limitations of Complaints: About program (what we do & how we do it); Staff, Partners, Contractors/Consultants Behaviour. Limitations: Nothing outside program except Child Safeguarding
  • Who can Complain, Categories of Complaints – Information Request, Assistance Request, Minor Dissatisfaction, Major Dissatisfaction, Breaches of SC Code of Conduct or Child Safeguarding etc
  • Recording of Complaints – At Entry points, ACF & SC, BRG, Telephone lines
  • Data base: Date and time complaint/feedback received, Complaint/feedback channel, Name of complainant/feedback provider (This is not mandatory), Sex, Age, Phone number (if permitted and available), Location/address, Description of complaint
  • Processing of Complaints: At Entry point; Quarterly Feedback from Abuja, Immediately fast tracked to Country Director in Abuja
  • Resolution
  • Appeals


  • Most of what most people know about anything beyond their work and family horizons is derived from press, radio and television.
  • A free Media is free to be not just wrong but wrong-headed. It is free to be libelous, dishonest, trivial, greedy,  preposterous, hypocritical and disingenuous. At the same time; it is free to be honest, forthright and valiant for truth and politically partisan.
  • Media not only enriches our knowledge by providing us with information of any kind, it also forms our personality. It help us to feel that we are part of a group (social networks) and contributes to a feeling of isolation.
  • Media exercises strong political influence – can shape the way we perceive certain groups of society, pressure group (lionise ENDSARS agitators as freedom fighters), acceptable and unacceptable behavior (fireworks over the site of Kannywood Institute)


  • Why are there criticisms of media news reporting?
    • Media highlight problems and criticize how powerful figures perform their duties & dissatisfaction among users over fault with newsgathering practices or note errors in the reporting?(NIGERIA:Sub standard& unprofessional reportage).
  • For explanations about what the media do – and does not do, the  1947 Hutchins Commission in USA ruled that media accountability was the solution
    • DILEMMA 1: Shud some form of govt regulation be imposed on the media or shud it remain free of govt influence?.
    • DILEMMA 2: Getting errors corrected, receiving apology & raising quality level of news reporting – NOT ENOUGH.
    • The medium’s performance must be affected by some kind of PRINCIPLE of knowing that it may be called to account to explain how it went about its work, i.e. a dynamic element of interactivity.
  • Since American media were not fulfilling their proper role in a democracy, i.e. not providing information citizens need, HUTCHINS COMMISSION shied from prescribing media content BUT RULED Media would be held accountable through criticism, debate, critical scrutiny and a non-governmental ‘media inspectorate’ to be privately funded and hosted by an unspecified university.

Geert Linnebank, ex Reuters E-in-C (Reuters Institute 2006) also once observed that,

  • “while many in our trade are entirely, importantly, admirably committed to and supremely skilled at holding those in power to account, that same commitment and those same skills aren’t always in evidence when it comes to looking at themselves, or at their own organizations and at their trade.
  • Our industry is suffering trust deficit. Given the rapidly increasing promiscuity of audiences, it’s imperative that journalism take stock and find solutions to issues affecting journalism – that are based on honesty, open debate, verified fact, intelligent analysis, brought about through a combination of academic rigour and journalistic urgency and flair
  • To Tony Blair, media is accountable daily through the choice of readers and viewers. But the reality is that the readers OR viewers have no objective yardstick to measure what they are being told. In every other walk of life in our society that exercises power, there are external forms of accountability, not least through the media itself.
  • Pacific Journalism Review 11 (2) 2005 believes media should serve the public. The principle of accountability implies being accountable to the public. However, media accountability must not be confused with self-regulation. Self-regulation implies that media impose rules upon themselves while media accountability involves the press, profession and public.
  • Bertrand (1999) typifies 3 MAS experiences: external mechanisms (the press council), internal mechanisms(journalists and the public- Ombudsman) and cooperative mechanisms(with representation of media owners).


  • “Whenever someone asks a news organization to explain or justify one of its decisions, media accountability process has been set into motion” (Neil Nemeth, 2000).
  • “It is the process by which media organizations may be expected or obliged to render an account of their activities to their constituents (readers, advertisers, news sources, media colleagues and regulatory agencies) (Editor Pritchard)”
  • Stages in the process includes NAMING (a constituent identifies a media problem), BLAMING (the constituent holds a media organization responsible for the problem), and CLAIMING (the constituent demands some form of reaction on the part of the media organization; i.e. an explanation of the rationale behind a decision to publish to economic compensation for the damage or trauma that publication caused) (Editor Pritchard)

For Bertrand (in Da Silva 2007) MAS basic means include

  • training: educating citizens in the use of media and university education for professionals that can impart a) general culture b) specialized knowledge and c) ethical awareness plus shorter seminars and coaching
  • monitoring: from research laboratories, necessary for example to spot sins of omission
  • evaluation: positive and negative criticism from all corners of society including media professionals and media scholars; and
  • feedback: from various sources, such as a complaints bureau, and by hiring journalists with different backgrounds


  • OS in editorial offices was conceived in Sweden (in Swedish, Ombuds means public, and man, representative) and is strengthened each year in successive debates.
  • Main Function: Receiving and answering public complaints. A complaint could arrive or the ombudsman can initiate He talks to the reporter and asks for explanations (Hugo Aznar,1999).
  • With versions of both parties, the Ombudsman makes a decision based on professional ethics codes, his organization´s writing manual or professional criteria.
  • After analysis, he gives visibility to the situation in his regularly published column, favoring a more responsible culture and more rigor and care than exercised by the media institution and its professionals.
  • 2nd Ombudsman function: A communication channel with the public.
  • Controversy often arises with criticisms of the Ombudsman from inside the media institution itself or when the ombudsman is related to the reporter, over costs of maintaining the experience and constant doubts about the ombudsman´s impartiality and fair performance.
  • In any case, the presence of an ombudsman generally improves the media’s image, contributes to avoiding greater conflicts and Ombudsman also stimulates the creation of other MAS experiences.


  • Ideally, PCs do not act as inhibiting or restraining instruments. In many cases the media institutions join and fund PCs and carry out their decisions, because they serve as agencies which promote understanding between disputing parties, thus avoiding expensive legal proceedings.
  • Certain PCs function like civil courtsreceiving complaints and issuing requests and sentences. Sometimes the offended party agrees not to seek redress in court, making room for negotiation or accepting the punishment that may be inflicted by the PC.
  • PCs are effective instruments for intermediation of the Public – providing reparation in cases of press mistakesPress-Public relationship, monitoring


In Brazil a synthesis of models to assure accountability and stimulate a democratic Press process in Media firms include

  • designating a professional staff with the mission of public representation;
  • recruiting a public person from society
  • constituting a mixed council of people from different sectors of society as readers´/viewers  group representatives
  • accepting external evaluations by independent organizations created such as the readers/viewers´ association
  • joining a Higher Authority/ Superior Council, a public entity, not under State control, with plural composition and representative of society (Da Silva and Paulino 2007)


  • Supplement written codes and policies with formal staff development in decision making…. Hold weekly meetings (William F. Woo)
  • Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in its code of ethics introduced a new chapter under the heading, “Be Accountable”. Journalists shud “clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct” and ”expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media”.
  • Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) entreats professional electronic journalists to respond to public concerns, investigate complaints and correct errors promptly, explain journalistic processes to the public and be duty bound to conduct themselves ethically.
  • Associated Managing Editors commits to serve as constructive critic of all segments of society, reasonably reflect in staffing and coverage its diverse constituencies, expose wrong doing, duplicity or misuse of power, public or private, editorially advocate needed reform and innovation in the public interest (Young 2001)


  • NPAN set November 1, 2021 as deadline for each member to empanel an internal Ombudsman mechanism to address public complaints and concerns on missteps by the media and its operatives
  • This is not only in line with international best practices but evidences that principles and values of ethical journalism are being take seriously.
  • The Internal Ombudsman will ensure that the news organisation keeps to the canons of journalism practice, adherence to code of ethics will help to mediate in conflicts stemming from internal or external pressures, keep news organisations honest and accountable to the public for news reported as well as ensure that the public’s right to know is protected (Leadership, Tunde Oguntola, August, 2021)
  • Daily Trust Ombudsman model?,,,,,, Late Bilkisu Yusuf, Dan Agbese


There are different types of editors – copy editors(proof readers), book editors, managing editors (Kelsey Casselbury 2018)

  • Editors: strong writing skills, good judgment to decide what stories should run, sound leadership abilities to guide reporters, writers and junior editors in their work.
  • Editor’s role varies based on the company and type of medium:
    • develop content ideas and assign stories to writers;
  • read content submissions, edit for spellings, punctuations and grammar.
  • verify facts and determine if a manuscript or article is ready for publication, then approve final versions.
  • In print media, editor works with an art director (chief sub editor) to decide on layouts and send the pages to press.

Once upon a time, an editor used red pen, but editing is now mostly computer-based. Editors must now be skilled in multimedia, work with graphics, audio and video. They also need to be social-media-savvy to promote their publication on websites.


  • Given growing and even justified public suspicion about the impartiality, accuracy and integrity of some journalists and some journalism, it is imperative for all newsroom staff to maintain the highest possible standards
  • Media needs to understand the ethical and political implication of what they do.
  • Nigerian Media’s ethical codes, by NBC and NUJ, were constructed on ethical principles of fairness or avoidance of bias, protection of privacy, safety and security, inclusion, transparency and accountability.
  • To earn and maintain public trust, NUJ Codes of Ethics makes it a moral imperative for every journalist and every news medium to observe the highest professional and ethical standards. Journalists should always have a healthy regard for the public interest. News contents must be accurate and fair, privacy of individuals and their family should respected unless it affects public interest
  • NBC Code mandates broadcasting to be characterized by professionalism, influence society positively, set agenda for the social, cultural, economic, political and technological development for the public good.


  • Democracy requires the active participation of citizens
    • everyone has the right to receive and impart information.
    • Media promotes grassroots democracy , transparency and accountability, publicizes local issues and provides an alternative source of information to official channels.
    • Media promotes grassroots democracy when it informs, educates and mobilize public in the business of governance, give people chance to assess opinions and to contribute their views on farming, health, environment, and business programmes relevant to their needs
    • Through its openness to participation to all sectors and people of pluralist societies, Media shud create diversity of voices and opinions.
  • Media performs a “checking function” when it
    • ensures that elected officials uphold their oaths of office;
    • kept their campaign promises and
    • carry out the wishes of the electorate.
  • Despite its propensity for sleaze, sensationalism and superficiality, the media as watchdog serves as guardian of the public interest, and therefore a conduit between government and the governed.
  • Media Watchdog Function:
    • scrutinize and hold Govt to account,
    • represent and present opinions of the public,
    • Set agenda and frame events to keep leadership on its toes
    • expose both the good and the evil in the private and public domains.
  • Media must strive to remain free, objective and skilled
    • provide information which the polity require to make responsible, informed decisions.
    • Media broadcast shud be diverse and varying, available to all sectors and individuals of society
    • Media ought to always remain neutral, objective and present information free of political bias.
    • Media shud be much more equitable and pluralistic in its approach by reporting both regional and national news
  • As mobilizing agents, Media must understand current relationship between ethnic nationalities, religious backgrounds within broader society, identify points of contention, provide veznue for debate of the issues at hand and help build consensus on the best course of action (Significance of Nigeria’s Restructuring).
  • Acknowledgement of conflict is necessary for democracy.
    • media must objectively report all sides of a discussion, without taking sides.
    • be an independent platform for interactive discussion about matters and decisions of importance to its community.


  • Andreas Schedler, Larry Diamond & Marc Plattner eds (1999) The Self Restraining State: Power and Accountability in New Democracies,          Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc, Colorado USA
  • Da Silva & Paulino, Media Accountability Systems: Models, Proposals and Outlooks, Brazilian Journalism Research, Volume 1, Semester 1 –         2007
  • Frank E.O and Ukpere W.I, Impact of Military Rule on Democracy in       Nigeria, Journal of Social Sciences, Research Gate, December 2012
  • Kelsey Casselbury, The Duties & Responsibilities of Editors, Hearst Newsletter, June 29, 2018
  • Torbjörn von Krogh (eds.),Media Accountability Today & Tomorrow: Updating the Concept in Theory and Practice, School of Communication and Design, Kalmar University, 13-14 March 2007
  • Young Whitney, Media & Ethics, Information Resource Centre, Lagos











Author: Imoh Robert

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