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Reporting Tragic Events Using Mobile Phones: Citizenship Photojournalism in Critical Tragedy in Nigeria?

Patrick E. Okon, Tolulope Kayode-Adedeji, and Lanre Amodu
Covenant University, Mass Communication Department, Ota 234, Nigeria

Abstract—The paper considers the reportage of tragic events in Nigeria by ordinary citizens, using mobile phones and other digital devices. The focus is on the moral agency of citizen-photojournalists, the dilemma inherent in the exercise of that agency, the technological structure that enable/impede such agency, and the resulting ethical tragedy for citizenship photojournalism. The questions addressed are: On what cultural activity rests the moral agency of citizen-photojournalists in Nigeria? How does mobile technology enable or impede the exercise of that moral agency? How do the citizens who own and use mobile technology reconcile the duty of care for victims of tragic public incidences and the immediate concern to represent events in ways that are fresh and immediate? Does the failure to provide care for victims of tragic events in the course of citizenship reporting constitute an ethical tragedy for the practice? Two cases of citizenship visual reporting in relation to tragic events in Lagos-Nigeria are studied (the Badagry boy’s saga and the Odunfa-Okepopo conflict). Mixed methods approach (content analysis and oral interview) is used in a qualitative way to generate data. The theory of media witnessing is used to ground the study. Findings show that in each case of citizen visual reporting, there is a serious negligence of the requisite duty of care towards victims of tragic public situations, resulting in an unconscious or deliberate undermining of some of the core values of citizenship journalism. Such negligence is also a revelation of the hypocrisy underlying the practice of citizenship photojournalism. Beyond social regulatory needs, the paper recommends careful balancing in practice responsibilities.
Index Terms—Care, witnessing, mediation, dilemma, tragedy, citizenship reportage, mobile technology

Cite: Patrick E. Okon, Tolulope Kayode-Adedeji, and Lanre Amodu, "Reporting Tragic Events Using Mobile Phones: Citizenship Photojournalism in Critical Tragedy in Nigeria?," Journal of Communications, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 324-334, 2019. Doi: 10.12720/jcm.14.4.324-334