How Foreign Aid Shapes Media Coverage and Eventual Nigeria Ranking on Corruption

How Foreign Aid Shapes Media Coverage and Eventual Nigeria Ranking on Corruption

By Mutiu Iyanda

 From the north to the south, professionals, public analysts and government officials have accused leaders in the south for not delivering good governance to the people even though good governance is entrenched in the constitutions of most countries comprising the global south.   Ensuring good governance in the south, governments and philanthropists in the global north believe that independent media and freedom of the press must be deep-rooted in the region. Over the last three decades, this notion among others, have been the factors for the flow of aid to the region with a view of removing obstacles such as low professional journalistic standards, funds paucity, weak technical skills and legal frameworks preventing independent media from reporting corruption, crimes among other sensitive socioeconomic and political issues.

From the United States government, the European Union, USAID to the Japanese government through Japan’s International Cooperation Agency, media aid in terms of funding and training are entering global south’s countries every year. In most cases, governments in the global north do dissociate their foreign policy objectives from the donors’ philosophies. Though the percent of media aid from the general aid flowing into the south is less than 0.4%, independent media and professionals are making a significant impact after receiving financial assistance and training towards the coverage of the issues threatening good governance.

Aiding Coverage of Sensitive Issues

In 2017, in line with its objectives of helping to fight corruption in Nigeria, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation declared about $9 million in funding to advance accountability and anti-corruption efforts. My colleagues and I investigated the impact of the funding and others received in 2014 by Premium Times, The Cable and others. Our analysis of the issues reported by the journalists trained through the funding indicates that the journalists covered accountability, corruption and crime issues after the training more than when the media received no fund and journalists trained.

Flow of Aid for Global Rankings Surge

Since the donors released the grants to assist reportage of sensitive issues, in our second study, we analysed Nigeria’s global ratings in the specific areas within the time that the donors released the money to private media agencies for the training and empowerment of journalists to cover critical areas of corruption, crime and the economy. Our results show that the high coverage of corruption linked with Nigeria’s scores on diversion of public funds and, irregular payments and bribes. Analysis further indicates that corruption and accountability coverage by the media contributed to the country’s poor corruption and accountability ranking by 69.1% and 15.5% respectively.

Like other scholars and researchers, our conclusion is that media in Nigeria and other countries in the global south would continue to follow practices or models of the media in the global north as long as soft (training) and hard (funding) aid continue to flow to the independent media. However, this should not be seen as a total threat to the region. It should be seen as a reality everyone in the region has to contend with as long as the despotic leadership remains.

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