“Terrorists or tags”? Contested identities in media portrayal of militants in Nigeria
AbstractMilitancy is a global phenomenon. In Nigeria, militants have been given various names that have been highly contested, along political, social and religious lines. Ranging from the Niger Delta Militants (henceforth NDM) to the Boko Haram Insurgents (henceforth BHI), the issue of linguistic labeling in the media in relation to militants activities has been a serious one. Amidst these competing voices, there is the need to critically evaluate the various labels associated with militants as seen in the media. Through the application of the Socio-Political Approach to Critical Discourse Analysis (henceforth CDA), as espoused by Allan Bells, this paper explicates the growing importance of CDA and its socio-political concern to revealing inequalities of power as a standard approach to media texts. This approach to CDA tends to link text analysis of news stories to media production processes and the role of the audience and opines that Critical Discourse analysts are interested in both details of the text itself and the broader social, political, and cultural functions of media discourse to determine other layers of meaning. The paper focuses on the analysis of news because CDA is an important approach to studying media texts, especially in crises situations. The paper examines the extent to which the discourse of media labeling has affected the overall discourse of insurgent activities as reported in the Nigerian print media. This is because discourses of identity formation are interactive pursuit even between opposing groups. By explicating media reports of Vanguard and Daily Trust newspapers in Nigeria on the subject of militancy, the overlap and divergence between the two discourses will emerge. Analyzing the integration of, and distancing from, aspects of the government discourse in opposition materials allows the militants‘ view of their identity to be contrasted and compared with that of the Nigerian government‘s position. The emerging comparison demonstrates clearly whether the ostensible linguistic labeling of the militants is aimed at weakening their projected identity or a ploy to polarize their ranks to the JTF advantage.
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