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Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja |
The Presidency has accused The Sun Newspaper of promoting “hate speech”, decrying a columnist with Saturday Sun of alleging that President Muhammadu Buhari was the first to endorse the Benue massacre on New Year Day.
Addressing State House Correspondents in the Presidential Villa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, appealed to the media to show more decorum and professionalism in the reportage of security and humanitarian situation in the country.
Saturday Sun recalled that the federal government had on January 25th giving marching orders to the relevant security agencies to, as a matter of urgency, tackle the propagation of hate speech, especially through social media, particularly by some notable Nigerians.
The order was given after the nation’s security chiefs met to review efforts aimed at ending the spate of insecurity across the country.
While holding up a copy of Saturday Sun, with the caption “’Expect More Blood in Benue…”, Shehu described as unfortunate what he called a growing lack of respect for journalism ethics and press laws in the Nigerian media, especially regarding the clashes in Benue State.
He said the frequent expressions of hate speech published by newspapers, in news stories, and especially in columns, is indeed a source of concern to all.
He regretted that, despite repeated appeals by recognised and reputable media bodies, the Government and concerned Nigerians, a segment of the Nigerian media is sinking deeper into the mesh of hate speech.
The Presidential media aide, urged the media to recall what happened in Rwanda before the genocide of the early 90s, during which hundreds of thousands of lives were lost as a result of consistent hate speech spewing from that country’s media.
“I am here this afternoon to address you on some pressing issues concerning our noble profession and to appeal that members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm should show more decorum and professionalism in the reportage of security and humanitarian situation in the country.
“The growing lack of respect for journalism ethics and press laws in the Nigerian media, especially regarding the clashes in Benue State, is very unfortunate.
“The frequent expressions of hate speech published by newspapers, in news stories, and especially in columns, is indeed a source of concern to all.
“We want to state emphatically that a segment of the Nigerian media is sinking deeper and deeper into the mesh of hate speech in spite of repeated appeals by recognised and reputable media bodies, the Government and concerned Nigerians.
“Unfortunately, self-regulation which is the norm in civilized societies has taken flight from many of our newsrooms.
“For instance, a recent column published in a national newspaper (The Sun newspaper), said ‘‘President Muhammadu Buhari was the first to endorse the Benue massacre’’ on New Year Day. The same columnist described the Minister of Defence, Mansur Muhammad Dan-Ali as “a dyed-in-the-wool Fulani irredentist who places trade over and above human life.” The diatribe went further to invite citizens of the country to arm themselves and fight each other. In addition, one of the newspaper’s Saturday headlines proclaimed: ‘Expect More Blood in Benue…’
“Apart from the basic tone of respect expected from an individual who is supposedly intelligent and educated enough to know better since they have been granted space to write in a national newspaper, there is the risk of inciting the public to actions that will have gory consequences for the entire nation for generations to come.
“Those beating the gongs of war and fanning the embers of discord must remember what prevailed in Rwanda before the genocide of the early 90s, during which hundreds of thousands of lives were lost as a result of consistent hate speech spewing from that country’s media.
“We must learn to express our grievances and criticisms without resorting to gutter language or to name calling, and the press has a responsibility to maintain that even if it means calling their columnists to order.
“President Buhari, by the Constitution, has the primary duty of protecting life and property and that is what he has been doing in Benue and across the country.
“Calling him a murderer is not only grossly disrespectful but unfair, especially when the President has written a letter to the Senate detailing his efforts to quell the crisis in Benue State, including dispatching the Minister of Interior and the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations for an on the spot assessment of the situation in the aftermath of the unfortunate incident; and receiving a direct briefing from the IG the following day.”