Brittle Paper, Nigeria's leading literary news website, has caused outrage among Nigerian social media users after it censored and deleted a story written by its deputy editor, Otosirieze Obi-Young, on the threat by Bello, son of Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, to ‘rape’ a Twitter user's mother.
Trouble started after Obi-Young published the response of Hadiza el-Rufai, wife of the governor, openly backing her son's threat to commit the atrocious act.
In a statement announcing his resignation shortly after the incident, Obi-Young revealed that editor of the news platform, Ainehi Edoro, called and asked him to "tone down" his criticism of the el-Rufais.
He said, “I edited the post, removing the relevant sections. The founder called back a few minutes later and said she wanted to take down the report. That was unacceptable to me. I saw no reason why my post-publication edits, which removed my opinion and restricted it to reportage, were not enough.”
Speaking further, Obi-Young disclosed that he woke up on the morning of April 15 to discover that he had been logged out of Brittle Paper's social media accounts and WhatsApp group.
Today, my time as Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper, a platform I'd've given my heart for, came to an end. I was made to leave because of my report on Hadiza El Rufai's comments on her son's gang-rape threat, a report that was taken down. My statement.https://t.co/1DzZc7zpfS— Otosirieze Obi-Young (@Otosirieze) April 15, 2020
He stated, “I am leaving Brittle Paper because this censorship goes against everything that the platform has demonstrated in the past and that I believe it should continue to stand for: a space for freedom, one that should be able to handle internal criticism.
“I believed that the opposing statements, mine and the platform’s, should have led to a rigorous internal dialogue on what the platform stood for, and I was ready to offer ideas on the way forward, to restore the literary community’s confidence in it, one way of which would have been to constitute an advisory board.
“Literature should be the last stronghold of dissent, and if the biggest literary media platform in Africa has strong-armed its editor this way, what hope is there for the writers who have shared their criticism of the first family’s human rights issues and the literary festival it supports with us in the past?
“How do we now guarantee the safety of these writers? How can this platform still offer moral support as we have done in the past to non-Nigerian writers who used pseudonyms to bravely tell stories about their countries where freedom after speech was not a given?"
Reacting to the statement, Edoro, publisher of the site, said, “On April 14, acting in my capacity as editor of Brittle Paper, I made the editorial call to pull down a story about the Twitter outrage against Hadiza el-Rufai’s response to a statement made by her son.
“My then deputy, Otosirieze Obi-Young, had covered the story and published it on the front page of Brittle Paperbefore I could review it.
"Otosirieze’s post was an impassioned, deeply personal piece reporting on the reprehensible statement made by Hadiza el-Rufai about her son’s equally odious statement.
“I found the title inflammatory and unnecessarily incendiary but everything seemed fine until I got to the last paragraph. It was then that alarms rang in my mind.”
Edoro’s response however, did not go down well with Twitter users, who accused her of allowing her platform to be hijacked by the el-Rufais into suppressing the truth.
Nigerian author, Elnathan John, while sharing his thoughts on the matter, condemned Brittle Paper for failing to stand up for the truth as well as the el-Rufai family for attempting to shrink the civic space.
He said, “There was a time Nigerian writers challenged dictators. There was a time they walked to meet a dictator to secure the release of a writer prisoner. Today Nigerian writers are consultants to dictators. I guess it is all for the love of literature.
“Don’t let them spin this. They will tell you it was a little disagreement. Just a quarrel. They will tell the writers to settle. Just like they did when el-Rufai had people locked up for writing and they were celebrating in Kaduna saying it was just for literature.”
Investigative journalist, Fisayo Soyombo, wondered why Brittle Paper didn't put the story back up if it claimed the problem was with the wording of the story.
He said, “After reading the statement of Brittle Paper'[email protected] and @ainehiedoro plus all the arguments about censorship versus editorial policy/ethics, I have just one question to ask: Why was the story never restored? Not 24 hours later, not 72 hours later? Why? Why? Why???
“Ainehi's free-flowing defence would have resonated with me if the story came back up at some point no matter how long it took.
“Fix the damn editorial lapses and get the story back on! But that it remains deleted as we speak, case closed, please. End of discussion!”
Ainehi's free-flowing defence would have resonated with me if the story came back up at some point, no matter how long it took. Fix the damn editorial lapses and get the story back on!— 'Fisayo Soyombo (@fisayosoyombo) April 16, 2020
But that it remains deleted as we speak, case closed, please.
End of discussion!
Nollywood actress, Kate Henshaw, wonders why Edoro who is a woman, would be apologetic to rape at a time when women are seeking equality.
She said, “And we want support from the men folk to see women as equals, to join their voices to ours on issues such as this.
“It is well. Nothing more to add.”
.....and we want support from the men folk...to see women as equals, to join their voices to ours on issues such as this.....— Kate Henshaw (@HenshawKate) April 15, 2020
It is well. Nothing more to add.