The euphemism 'brown envelope syndrome' simply connotes how journalists receive cash and material things to suppress vital information; to add personal coloration, prejudice and idiosyncrasy to news; to deprive the public unwholesome secrets that ought to be published. This is a practice common among journalists and it is called brown envelope syndrome (BES).
However, research has proven brown envelop to be a common phenomenon in journalism practice in Nigeria, and it is a situation whereby journalists demand for bribe or other forms of gratification before they cover any event or even publish stories from such events.
Under the same vein, it defines brown envelope as the money given to reporters or editors to persuade them to write positive stories or kill a negative story.
Regardless of that, history traced by the provision of an online source disclosed that the term “brown envelope” was first coined in 1994 after the cash- for- questions-affair in a political scandal in the United Kingdom (UK), which The Guardian alleged that the owner of Harrods department store, Mohamed Al-Fayed, had paid a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons to ask a question using a brown-colored envelope for the transaction.
But in the case of Nigeria, the causes of brown envelope syndrome are results of corruption, poverty, and power abused from our political leaders. Corruption is a major problem Nigeria has been facing since its inception, and since journalists are part of Nigeria there are not immune against it.
Corruption had spread in nooks and crannies of our beloved Nigeria and have inflicted most journalist minds with the mindset that the only way to survive in this profession is to join the corrupt one's, and the infliction of corruption in the mind's of Journalist is due to poor payment of salaries. It is a fact not an opinion that the salaries of journalists are not encouraging.
In attestation to this, in 2013, a survey study of journalists' perception on the causes of Brown Envelope Syndrome (BES) practices in Nigeria indicate that 6% of journalists interview associate poor remuneration as a cause of (BES), while 2% indicated delay in salary payments.
Although, some notable scholars and professionals in journalism recognised the following as the causes of brown envelope syndrome.
1. Weak regulatory bodies
2. Proliferation of untrained journalists
and fake journalists
3. Corruption and personal greed
4. Poor remuneration and non — payment of
Notwithstanding, other communication professionals penned it that brown envelope journalism emanates from the result of the press being free to write whatever they wish to write due to the freedom of thought and expression granted to them.
Nonetheless, the practice of brown envelope in journalism has spread beyond measures like COVID-19 pandemic, even more than what words could express, and it is very bad that this corrupt practice has been adopted by many older journalists and has also been transferred to the younger generation of journalists in Nigeria.
Sadly, the implications of brown envelope journalism has birthed more harms than goods. It has made journalism worthless in the sense that corrupt politicians now abuse the constitutional right of a journalist based on the fact that most of the journalists are advocates of brown envelope via their unethical practices.
In reference, the insane character displayed by the former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani Kayode against a Daily Trust, Charles Eyo , is a very good example on the implication of brown envelope syndrome on journalism practice. The aforementioned Minister reiterated in one particular part of the viral video that, “Have been persecuted, unlike most of the politicians you follow for brown envelope.” From this statement, we could probably say Femi Fani Kayode had the audacity and bravado to molest a journalist with insulting and abusive words because of the rampant cases of bribery and corruption in journalism industry.
In addition to the implication, the brown envelope syndrome has created a dent image on journalism practice and personality, and to some extent, it has made the mass audience to lose confidence in Journalist's information, because they believe that journalists are working hand in hand with the government in the segment of corruption.
For instance, during the heat moment of COVID-19 in Nigeria where cases reported were high, most media published information concerning how deadly the disease can be, was regarded as feigned information simply because the mass audience believe that the journalists are receiving bribe from corrupt politicians to perform their duties.
On a whole, this is a wake-up call on every journalist; Nigeria Union of Journalists; every organization involved in the development of journalism in Nigeria, to fight against brown envelope journalism and to uphold the tenets and ethics of journalism.
On the part of government and media house owners, this is a clarion call to increase the payment of journalists and for journalists to be paid standard payment like every other independent profession.