Role of Editors in Enforcing and Promoting Accountability By Professor Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, FMNIPR, arpa, Department of Mass Communication University of Lagos Nigeria

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  • Posted by: Imoh Robert

Session Outline

  • Introdcution
  • Conceptual Clarifications
  • Framework for Media and Accountability
  • Role of Editors in Promoting Accountability
  • Challenges Editors face in Promoting Accountability
  • Summary
  • Conculsion
  • Recommendation


  • One institution that has a constitutional mandate to make government accountable is the media, hence we are gathered here today.
  • Essentially, as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the media is part and parcel of the Realm. Therefore, a country’s herald man – the watchman – it has the duty of watching over the Realm, keeping a sharp eye open.

Conceptual Clarifications

  • Accountability is at the core of the enjoyment of all human rights and has two main components: addressing past grievances and correcting systemic failure to prevent future harm…”(HCHR, 2010).
  • It involves continuous monitoring by government and civil society to find out what is working, what is not, what has been omitted, and what needs to change…” (Potts, 2005).   It is a continuous process—one in which:
  • duty bearers share information and outcomes
  • rights-holders are able to both understand what was done, as well as highlight mistakes or gaps which need to be redressed, and the corrections monitored over time.
  • Accountability in our clime, may focus on uncovering and exposing what governments, corporations and individuals are trying to hide

Framework for Media and Accountability

  • Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution states that: “the press, radio and television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”.
  • Thus, in societies the news media has come to serve an additional function as watchdogs on the activities of the arms of government.
  • The media has kept democracies viable by giving voice to the voiceless, ensuring that a ruling majority cannot trample the rights of the minority

Role of Editors in Promoting Accountability

  • Provide guidance, direction and make inputs – An editor should work with the reporter and be involved in the story the reporters do from the scratch.
  • Establish the ethical standards of what news is, determine if the reports meet the standards as ascribed for journalism and ensure accuracy – Balance, credible and accurate information.

Role of Editors in Promoting Accountability -2

  • Examining unforeseen corners of society (Watch Dog Role)
  • Specifically on corruption, stories should go beyond government contracts to focus on cross-border movement of criminal money through tax havens, secrecy jurisdiction, disguised corporations, anonymous trust accounts, fake foundations, trade mispricing, and other money launderings techniques is neither fully understood nor prevented.
  • Extend scrutiny to corporations and marketers – Recall the oil.
  • Watching over those whose power and position mostly affect citizens (Watch Dog Role).

Challenges Editors face in Promoting Accountability

  • Maintaining independence from those they cover—in other words, journalism demands a high degree of reliability in terms of being open minded, having an independent spirit, not allowing journalists to be induced by sources or compromised by self interest.
  • Representing varied points and interest in society and also placing them in context rather than highlight only the conflicting fringes of debate.
  • Political economy of the media – survival
  • Weak governance structures of media houses
  •  Poor remuneration and Irregular and non-payment of salaries

Challenges Editors face in Promoting Accountability-2

  • Many journalists are consultants to state governors and PEP
  • Management Sycophancy (e.g. dubious conferment of awards)
  • Commercialisation of new (paid views): Commercialisation restricts access to the big wigs, subverts the ideals of professional news coverage, and investigative journalism largely subjecting the media contents to the dictates of those that can pay. This has implications for the ability of the media to ethically promote accountability and deepen democracy
  • Global economic meltdown: This has resulted in low patronage by advertisers and government; and low sales among consumers whose income is also dwindling. On the other hand, has increased the crave for profit by media barons who own media out fits. “The need for media ethics rises as news reporting becomes driven more and more by the free market rather than the truth”.


  • Promoting accountability requires editors who in the course of their duties show resilience, uncommon profundity, ethical journalistic courage, individual creativity and public benefit in their reports on clandestine activities, public or corporate corruption, human rights violation and or the failure of regulatory agencies.


  • Again, the fourth estate of the realm, should continue to uphold its constitutional responsibility of holding government to account; and should remain resilient in the use of the pen as an instrument to make our leaders accountable.
  • This is critical  in combating financial crime – the high rate of corruption and misappropriation of public funds; thus deepen democracy cum good governance.
  • Ignoring this, is sowing a seed that will germinate and yield
    crimes which have negatively redefined our nation that we have made various attempts to rebrand (most of us will remember a description – fantastically corrupt).


  • Editors should be enablers of responsible, accountable, ethical journalism
  • Accountability should be emphasized early in the design process to avoid bolt-on modifications after substantial design work has been done.
  • While ensuring public accountability, should also ‘heal’ itself by resolving the paradox of not just bringing government, corporations and individuals to account; but also bringing itself to account by dealing the factors which influence the contents that they ‘dish’ out to the consumers; and come up with how to strengthen the economy of the media to enhance media independence. Ethical and responsible journalism should have a standard ‘operating framework’
  • Think how to make money on their digital platforms

Author: Imoh Robert

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