Media as Peace Advocates: A Reflection on Nigerian Press Coverage of the Bakassi Peninsula Conflict (2002-2006)
The study examined the quality of coverage Nigerian newspapers gave to the Bakassi Peninsula conflict between Nigeria and Cameroun within the period 2002-2006. This period is significant because it marked the delivery of judgment on the case by ICJ resulting to heightening of tension between the two countries and the eventual handover of the Peninsula. Newspapers’ performance was assessed against the backdrop of how socially responsible their reportage was considering the fact that the Nigerian press has often been adjudged in empirical research as aggravating rather than dousing tensions in conflict. Essentially, the study sought to determine the extent to which newspapers’ coverage facilitated a non-violent resolution of the Bakassi Peninsula conflict. In this regard, the study evaluated, among other objectives, if the Nigerian newspapers were oppositional to the official stand of the Nigerian government on the conflict and whether they rather endorsed war as the preferred option to resolve it; and if not, whether the Nigerian press set an agenda for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The study was, therefore, anchored on Social Responsibility theory which stresses press freedom matched with responsibility and agenda setting
theory which emphasizes the role of the media in charting the course of social discourse in society. Content analysis and survey were used to generate data from newspapers’ editions as well as journalists who covered the conflict. Data were analyzed descriptively using percentages while the hypotheses were tested using ANOVA and t-test. The study found that the selected Nigerian newspapers reported the conflict episodically, but did not advocate war as a means of resolving it. However, the newspapers were oppositional to the way the Nigerian government quickly conceded the Peninsula to Cameroun, emphasizing political solution as a better option
to implementing the ICJ judgment.
Keywords: Media, Conflict, Peace, Coverage, Nigeria, Cameroon