Brown Envelope Journalism: The Contradiction Between Ethical Mindset and Unethical Practice
Using the case of brown envelope journalism (informal gratitude offered to journalists), this chapter discusses the discrepancy between theory and practice in African journalism ethics. The chapter offers a synthesis of research conducted on journalistic bribery in sub-Saharan Africa since around 2005. Two major interpretations are identified: the professionalist approach, which focuses on causes and remedies of brown envelope journalism; and the culturalist approach, which focuses on brown envelope journalism as cultural practice. The chapter criticizes both approaches for tending to downplay the distinction between journalistic practice, which often can be unethical, and the journalistic mindset, which typically testifies to positive ethical awareness. The chapter also presents recent research results from Ethiopia, where young reporters with short professional experience are found to be most likely to say that they will accept money from sources, with an overrepresentation of male journalists and reporters in the private media in this respect.