Africa viewpoint: Crooked journalists?
In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Nigerian writer Sola Odunfa laments the erosion of moral values among the media - the supposed custodians of democracy.
There was once a saying in the US that no person was worse than a crooked cop.
The thinking behind the phrase was that crime of whatever scale would thrive in a community where the police were corrupt.
This is something that keeps popping up in my mind when I read reports of revolting criminal acts and petty corruption in my country.
They are so prevalent.
End Quote Dora Akunyili Nigeria's former information minister
A hungry man is an angry man. A hungry journalist is a dangerous person”
In recent weeks, international media coverage has been dominated by the unethical and criminal methods used by some journalists in the UK to obtain social and political information for publication.
They hacked into mobile phones and unlawfully retrieved information from the personal records of law-abiding citizens.
The offending journalists worked for the UK's largest-selling newspaper, News of The World, part of US citizen Rupert Murdoch's worldwide media empire.
The newspaper has since been closed down by the owners as a result of public outrage.
We are not talking of occasional breaches of the law and professional ethics.
The UK parliament has heard that the number of cases being investigated is at least 4,000, with victims said to include the royal family.
If proven, the journalists and their employer would have violated a sacred trust on which democracy is built - respecting a person's right to privacy and dignity.Moral backbone
In the face of the scandal, a Nigerian may ponder whether the domestic media is helping the country's fledgling democracy to grow.
Officials take pride in pointing out that Nigeria has a large number of newspapers and radio and TV stations, but everyone shies away from assessing the moral quality of the media and its journalists.
One should not compare a crooked cop to a crooked journalist, but there is much food for thought in a speech given last year by then-Nigerian Minister of Information Dora Akunyili.
Speaking at the opening of the new headquarters for The Punch newspaper in the commercial capital, Lagos, she pointed out that many media organisations in Nigeria owed their journalists several months' salaries.
Ms Akunyili said there could be no freedom without money.
"A hungry man is an angry man. A hungry journalist is a dangerous person," she said.
"You cannot expect a hungry journalist to shun blackmail or to be fair in the presentation of facts, he is dangerous to democracy."
I do not know who is more dangerous to the Nigerian nation - a hungry journalist or a hungry cop.
Both undermine democracy.
We have them aplenty.
This is the issue Nigerians have to tackle as boldly as the British, to sort out the chaff in the media.