Presidency cautions Journalists against indulging in hate speech

Timothy Choji, Abuja

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The Presidency has admonished Journalists to in the interest of the nation and quest for peace in all parts of the country avoid sentiments in their reportage.

Addressing State House Correspondents, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu said Journalists must show professionalism in carrying out their work.

“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,” he said.

Garba Shehu said the kind of columns being reeled out by Journalists recently are indicators of hate speech among Journalists.

“The frequent expressions of hate speech published by newspapers, in news stories and especially in columns are 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,” Shehu stated.

The Presidential spokesperson, who cautioned against reports that can cause disaffection, further said:

“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.”

He said President Buhari has sworn to protect lives and property of all Nigerians and he is well focused on doing that.

“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,” he said.

Ime N