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Communication Ethics in Nigeria: A Comparison Between Prophetic Etiquettes of Tableeg and Journalistic Ethics of Information Delivery

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Communication Ethics in Nigeria: A Comparison Between Prophetic Etiquettes of Tableeg and Journalistic Ethics of Information Delivery

Ahmad Muhammad AUWAL

Department of Mass Communication, Nasarawa State University, Nigeria.

amdauwal@nsuk.edu.ng (+234-7035450569).

 Abstract

Discussions about ethical issues affecting the practice of journalism particularly in countries of the South (countries typically grouped within the category ‘developing nations’ or ‘third world’) have attributed such puzzles to a number of factors including lack of qualitative education and professional training on the one hand, and unimproved working conditions and inconsiderable salaries and wages paid journalists, on the other. Too, arguments about the existence of some Islamic values that could transform the practice of journalism globally, has drawn numerous academic literature of conflicting perceptions. This debate has been intensified among Western, Middle Eastern scholars and media professionals who have made attempts to draw a comparison between journalistic ethics, Prophetic etiquettes, and Islamic values of information delivery. Against this background, this paper reviews some Qur’anic verses and Hadiths which show basic attributes of the Prophet’s (SAW) life that mankind ought to follow, so to eexcel in all endeavours and to find the best solutions to all earthly problems. Using analytical technique, the paper contextualises some aspects (etiquettes) of tableeg (delivery of the Divine Message by the Prophet – SAW) and concludes that, journalists the world over should emulate in order to perform their duties and social responsibilities justly without causing discomforts to the society.

Keywords: Communication, Ethics, Etiquettes, Journalism, Prophethood, Tableeg. 


Introduction

Journalistic ethics has over the years been a conflicting concept that has generated debates among scholars. Attempts have also been made to develop an internationally agreed code of ethics, especially from the Islamic perspective by focusing on the moral guidelines and values provided in the Qur’ān and the traditions (Sunnah or Hadith) of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), but all efforts tend to provide fruitless results. This is as a result of the exiting differences in journalistic ethics and media systems in many countries of the world. As such, operationalising these values (prophetic etiquettes) into a workable code of ethics for media professionals becomes difficult in different societies. The social, political and economic structures and institutions of the world are characterised with differences and inequalities. These disparities vary from region-to-region and from one country to another. To a large extent, these imbalances and inequalities affect international news and information flow.

Variations also exist in the operational philosophies and news ideologies of the mass media, tailored to suit their audiences need for information. Moreover, the factors considered in news evaluation and judgment among countries of the world also differs. Mowlana (2007:23) observes that, a number of studies on international communication over the last several decades reveal two essential characteristics. One is the “ethnocentric” orientation of mass communication systems of the highly developed and industrialised nations, and the second is the “asymmetric” circulation of information in the world. These two characteristics according to Mowlana, dominate the world mass media system and indeed are responsible for uneven treatment of events, imbalances in news and information, and also the unequal distribution of power in the world system. Ali et al (2014:634-635) corroborate that, the meaning and values assigned to concepts such as news, truth, objectivity, freedom, people’s right to know, and facts, may change according to particular circumstances or according to the needs and priorities of a particular society at a particular time. Individual codes of ethics may vary from nation to nation only with respect to national priorities, linguistic constraints, cultural diversity, or the type of political structure.

Few scholars have made attempts to define an Islamic framework for mass media ethics. However, their thoughts have not gone beyond academic discussions. Against the backdrop of the foregoing discourse, this work compares the journalistic ethics and Prophetic etiquettes of communication, to lay a solid foundation and to devise methods and practical measures through which the moral values (Islamic etiquettes), provided in the Qur’ān and Hadith of the Prophet (SAW) can be actualised into workable codes of ethics to sanitise the conduct of media practitioners and the operations of media organisations around the world.

The paper argues that there are values and moral guidelines provided in the Qur’ān and Hadith which journalists around the world should emulate in order to use communication as a tool for the betterment of societies and encourage good deeds. If strictly adhered to, these values can play significant role in establishing peace and stability in the world. As Bernard Shaw (quoted in Gülen, 2014:xxi) rightly asserts, “humanity can solve its accumulated problems by turning to Prophet Muhammad (SAW), who solved the most complicated problems as easily as one drinks coffee.” Gülen corroborates this point when he states that, “the problems of our time will be solved by following the ways of the Prophet (SAW). This has been acknowledged by unbiased Western and Eastern intellectuals.”

It is hoped that the arguments raised in this paper will provoke further research and academic discourse in this area at the national and international levels.      

Journalistic Ethics: An Overview

Historically, the term “ethics” originated from the Greek word, ethikos, which means the discipline dealing with what is good and bad, and with moral duty and obligation; a set of moral principles or values; the principles of conduct governing an individual or group. From a scholarly point of view, Nwala (1997:8) explains that, “ethics is the science of morality or moral philosophy. It is derived from a Greek word, ethos which means “custom, habit or character.” Ethics is a branch of philosophy which deals with what is morally good and bad, right or wrong, acceptable and unacceptable. Nwala adds that, ethics is “the fundamental character or spirit of a culture, the understanding principles which inform the beliefs, customs and practices of a society. Ethics has also come to mean the normative and scientific study and critical examination of human conduct or behaviour as to whether it is good or bad, right or wrong, notable or ignorable, moral or immoral, etcetera.”

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