Publisher: Intellect Books

Muslim Minorities and Media Access In A Predominantly Christian City: The Case of Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Walter C. Ihejirika
KEYWORDS: broadcast media, media access, religious broadcasting, media regulation, Christians Muslims religious minorities conflict


Media use by religious leaders and their adherents has become one of the major issues defining religious praxis in the contemporary world. In Nigeria, this has become accentuated by the upsurge of Pentecostalism and the overriding presence of its preachers and healers on the country's airwaves. There are a hundred and one preachers, healers, counsellors, exorcists and singers identified with this burgeoning Christian movement who buy air time on national, local and private radio and television stations to proclaim their message. Some also pay for newspaper space to publish their messages. The most notable figures among them are: Tunde Bakare of the Later Rain Assembly, Chris Oyakilome of Christ Embassy, Matthews Ashimolowo of Kingsway International Christian Centre, Enoch Adeboye of Redeemed Christian Church of God, Mike Okoonkwo of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission, David Oyedepo of the Faith Tabernacle, Taiwo and Bimbo Odukoya of The Fountain of Life Church. Due to the huge profits they are bringing to the media industry, the Pentecostal movement has become a major force in the implementation of the country's media policies. It is easy for them to bend some of the media rules and get away with it. This dominance infringes the principle of equal access to all religious organisations that is enshrined in the Broadcasting Code promulgated by the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission. Against the backdrop of this Pentecostal dominance, this article examines the problem of media access by the country's minority religious groups. A religious group could be in the minority in terms of overall size, or the number of its adherents in a given locality. We can thus have Christian minorities in Muslim dominated Northern Nigeria, and Muslim minorities in Christian dominated Southern-Nigeria. The major questions this paper asks are: How do religious minorities in Nigeria live with their ‘perceived’ exclusion from the media, and are they adopting any discernable strategies to make their presence felt? To answer these questions, a social survey involving the use of questionnaires and interviews was conducted among Muslims living in the Christian-dominated Southern city of Port-Harcourt. The paper reflects on how the Muslim minorities in the city feel about their access to the state's broadcast media. This exercise provides new perspectives on how the media can mitigate or exacerbate religious differences in the country.

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