Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Media Representation of Boko Haram in Some Nigerian Newspapers

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Media Representation of Boko Haram in Some Nigerian Newspapers

Article excerpt


This paper examines the media representation of the socio-political discourse that centres on the activities of Boko Haram, a Nigeria-based militant Islamic group that has been responsible for violent attacks on individuals and institutions in the country. The data for the study was derived from newspaper reports published in July and August 2011 in the wake of the bombing of the nation's police headquarters and the United Nation's House in Abuja, Nigeria. The theoretical framework employed for the analysis is Critical Discourse Analysis. This interdisciplinary and inter-discursive approach made the application of historical and ideological analysis possible. The authors were able to elicit the media representation of Boko Haram as a militant Islamic group with allies and members outside Nigeria. The group is also represented as one that has an international socio-political agenda that could threaten regional peace and the continued existence of Nigeria as a peaceful and stable polity. The paper concludes that contrary to scepticisms about daily newspapers as purveyors of misery and libel, Nigerian national newspapers serve as a source of accurate information and perceptive analysis on Boko Haram, a socio-political group whose actions are inimical to public peace and Nigeria's political stability. The paper concludes that the bombing of the Nigeria Police Headquarters and the United Nations House in Abuja by the group exposed the ill-preparedness of Nigerian security agencies to meet the security challenges of the 21st century.

Keywords: Boko Haram, ideology, Islamic theology, Nigerian press, media-political discourse

1. Introduction

Media discourse, according to Macdonald (2003, p. 2), frequently reacts to "perceived public desires and concerns" and sometimes sets an agenda that interacts with those of the wider society. Media analysts have favoured the concept of representation, a term that resonates with demands for objectivity and balance in news reporting and presentation of opinions in the public space. Media representation of discourse is a troublesome concept in that it suggests that there is a wide gulf between reality and its textual representation by the mass media. This is why we consider it expedient to examine connections between media discourse and a varied set of public discourses often represented in the print media. We also consider it expedient as critical discourse analysts to take a close look at both the positive and negative representations of the activities of Boko Haram, a socio-political group whose activities is inimical to the peace and stability of Nigeria, an emerging democracy. According to Bridges and Brunt (1981, p. 35), a media product is "precisely representations of the social world, images, descriptions, explanations and frames for understanding how the world is and why it works as it is said and shown to work."

The media could be described as helping to construct versions of reality in socio-political discourse. Macdonald (2003, p. 14) observes that it is pointless to argue about the accuracy of any representation of the real world in the media. This is because it is not always possible to have access to the truth and even if one does, it is often evaded or distorted by participants whose human foibles often affect their positive or negative presentation of events and happenings. She concludes that an attempt to investigate the truthfulness of media representation can produce only a wild goose chase (ibid, p. 17). Discourses are to be explored in what Foucault (1981, p. 101) describes as "tactical productivity" (the mechanics through which they achieve power) and their "strategic integration" (what circumstances and rules give rise to their use in particular circumstances). To Foucault, discourse is more than language, and it is this "extra" that binds it into social and cultural processes. Media discourse often employs language to pander to public desires, allay public fears or persuade the public to subscribe to ideological positions espoused by the ruling elite. …

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