Leadership Newspaper, Media Responsibility and the Police By Reuben Abati

By Reuben Abati

Our attention has been drawn to a statement by the Leadership Newspaper  titled “Statement on the Arrest and Detention of LEADERSHIP journalists” (April 10). The latest episode in the matters arising from the same newspaper’s publication of an alleged “Presidential Directive” which we have had cause to disavow because the basis of the story proved to have been a dubious ‘bromide’ containing nothing more than “a mishmash of carefully arranged and concocted lies, presented to the public as evidence of a document emanating from the presidency.” Yet, the Leadership newspaper insisted that “it stood by its story.”

As a responsible government committed to providing good governance and protecting the rule of law, the rebuttal from the presidency was appropriate; yet its symbolism runs far deeper.  It ordinarily ought to have motivated all concerned with or related to the process and issues contained therein, particularly the publishers and editors, to double check their claims, and where errors had been made, to quickly retract the story.  This would have been in line with the ethics of professionalism, good conduct and unbiased reporting.

This approach reflects the crucial role of a bridge which a best-practice media performs, in the management of the civil engagement between elected officials and the citizenry. Underpinning this social contract is the principle that the freedom of expression goes hand in hand with great responsibility. Given the Leadership Newspaper’s insistence that it stood by its story, questions are automatically raised about professional ethics and the social responsibility of the media, which certainly, by the rules and codes of practice of the various media associations in the country do not accommodate the publication of falsehood, or inciting material, or the abuse of the media’s constitutional mandate.  

The circulation of a fictitious ‘presidential directive’ that seeks in the main to cause civil strife, engender a breakdown of law and order, and negate the values of our democracy is a very grievous act indeed that should not be ignored. At its core, such a disruptive act erodes the ethos of governance and professionalism and naturally stirs up those entrusted with the protection of law and order; as it should also, every responsible citizen, interest group and the entire media. In that regard, President Jonathan did not have to issue any orders before those who have as much constitutional responsibility as the media;that is, the police, see the need to act in the public interest.

Without holding brief for the law enforcement and security agencies, such a publication, like all others that threaten our democracy and undermine law and order, become the duty of the Police as an institution to investigate. The Leadership newspaper should see this as an opportunity to co-operate with the police as required by the laws of the land.  The Police have not done anything outside the law. The trite rule is that nobody is above the laws of the land. It is also within the powers of the Police to invite persons for questioning and to conduct investigations, which is what they have done so far in “The Leadership case”. Or are the editors of the Leadership newspaper insisting that they are above the laws of the land?  

This administration believes in and has demonstrated its commitment to press freedom times over. The Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) was signed by this President into law and under this government the Nigerian print and electronic media has grown in number, reach and in terms of freedom to practise. It will be disingenuous to suggest that there is a clampdown of any sort or an attempt to stifle the press.

Why shouldn't journalists normally cooperate with the police in this instance? We believe that it has to do with the fundamentals of professional ethos that make journalists operate with a different set of loyalties and a different set of outcomes. Yet,there should be no contradiction under normal circumstances where the pursuit of peace and democracy deepening is concerned. This should ordinarily have been an opportunity for the ‘media’ to help our democracy by collectively rejecting the publication of pure falsehood.

As recently as March 12, 2013 in the United Kingdom, detectives working with the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Elveden, an on-going British police investigation into corrupt payments to public officials, placed two journalists under covert surveillance by police investigating corruption and bribery allegations against journalists. This process was considered a crowding out of press freedom with a number of people settling for an open invitation by the police for questioning, as was done in previous invitations with regards to Operation Weeting - covering investigations of The News of the World which led to numerous arrests, detentions and eventual convictions.

The developments at The News of the World, which centre around the resort to illegal means to obtain and/or publish otherwise dubiously obtained information led to the setting up of the Leveson Inquiry, a judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. The Inquiry published the Leveson Report in November 2012, which reviewed the general culture and ethics of the British media, and made recommendations for a new, independent, body to replace the existing Press Complaints Commission, which would be recognised by the state through new laws. Some of the changes recommended include sweeping measures that will allow police officers to demand information from sources; rights for police to seize materials from the press, changes that may force journalists to reveal whistleblowers' identities; and other rule changes that may define freedom of speech. To show the extent of an ordered approach, part 2 of the inquiry has since been deferred until after criminal prosecutions regarding events at The News of the World are concluded.
 
In Nigeria, the place of our media is well regarded by the government and its freedom within the law, is regarded as sacred. The Nigerian media is self-regulated and is required to abide by defined codes of ethics. The incident with the Leadership newspapers is not an attempt by the government to muzzle a critical bridge in the societal value chain. Rather, it reflects the professional gaps that need to be bridged within the profession as the media continues to play its very crucial and necessary role in nation-building.

This development therefore offers the media an opportunity for introspection, one that requires an emphasis on the responsibility of a media house as regards issues of ethics and professionalism;and extends in the main to how such a media house builds corporate governance rules to ensure that reckless, unfounded and grossly misleading publications have no place in the esteemed profession and outputs from its stable.

Nigerians fought so hard to end an era whereby serious attempts were made to muzzle the media and our recent history will attest to the heroic role played by the media in our emergent democracy. We intend for that to continue and welcome unfettered contributions, investigations and accountability audit of those holding public office today and tomorrow.

What must not be encouraged is voodoo journalism or the deliberate and malicious attempt to use a medium that is designed to inform to now take on the inglorious task of being a mouthpiece for a narrow agenda based on disinformation, deliberate scaremongering, civil society baiting and the offer of media platform(s) to those hell-bent on causing disharmony through well-woven conspiracies.

This government is proud of its record on press freedom, its relationship with and promotion of access for the media and civil society. The publication of a spurious document and the alarmist approach to the routine invitation extended to the Leadership journalists should of itself provide proof of a choreographed attempt to deliberately cast the administration in a bad light; especially given the synchronized communications from the newspaper, the Action Congress of Nigeria, and others.

Once again, we urge the Nigerian public and the media to pay careful attention to those who parade themselves under different garbs and push forth information intended to subvert the cause of peace and order. The Nigerian government remains a committed advocate of a free but responsible media that can and should hold the government to account even as it seeks to educate and inform the citizenry for whom we are all responsible. This is the social contract we are all agreed to, for and on behalf of the Nigerian public.

Dr. Reuben Abati is Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to President Goodluck Jonathan

April 10, 2013

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

 

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concerned go read this book by OJ--it would do u world of good

AS Nigeria wades through the storms of insecurity worsened by the Boko Haram insurgency in some northern parts of the country, which has claimed about 3000 lives so far, the media has been urged to learn from its mistakes in the coverage of the Niger Delta crisis and embrace peace journalism.According to a book on the crisis in Nigeria’s oil-bearing region; “Niger Delta Crisis: Media and Peace Building Options,” the media was biased in the coverage of the Niger Delta crisis to the detriment of the citizenry and the country.Written by Mr. Oma Djebah, a former senior editor with ThisDay Newspapers and Special Adviser to Delta State Governor on Foreign Affairs, the 186-page book said the media discourse was very high on images of fighting, violence and armed confrontations; but very low on explanations as to why and how the conflict came about.

SaharaReporters and Intellectuals

Please SaharaReporters and other Intellectuals on this forum must respond, at the same height, to this letter of Mr. Abati. Can you see how he sounded in his article. Can you all capture his strong military and authoritarian voice to reprimand and kill the rights and legal practices of transparent journalism? This is the time to take this issue up. All Nigerian journalists and media houses must stand up to fight in time lest the freedom of speech in this country forever erodes. This is a big slap on our faces!

Saharareporters and Intellectuals

Please SaharaReporters and other Intellectuals on this forum must respond, at the same height, to this letter of Mr. Abati. Can you see how he sounded in his article. Can you all capture his strong military and authoritarian voice to reprimand and kill the rights and legal practices of transparent journalism? This is the time to take this issue up. All Nigerian journalists and media houses must stand up to fight in time lest the freedom of speech in this country forever erodes. This is a big slap on our faces!

OC: fake lawyer, let the editors be charged to court !!!

Mr. Fake Lawyer;
According to your warped mind, most of us on this blog do not understand Abati; i hope that shows you and Abati what direction 2015 will be.

If Mr. Abati is so sure the editors of Leadership newspaper published falsehood, how come they have not been charged to court after their release ? Or is the Presidency/Police the right bodies to pronounce guilt on anyone ?

I recollect 2 years ago, the Presidency/Police harassed/detained THE NATION newspaper editors for carrying a story about OBJ meeting GEJ and till date no one has been charged to court.

Any lawyer, I know and you know you are not but pretending to be one, would tell you the rule of law must prevail AT ALL TIMES ! Only a court of law can pronounce guilt Mr. Fake Lawyer

Stop Fooling Yourself Rueben

If the bromide was fabricated as you want all to believe, why don't you take Leadership or its Editors to Court? Why release the arrested staff rather than charge them to court? The Yorubas say "two parties in a lie cannot be fooloed simultaneously". If the one does not know he/she is being lied to, at least the liar knows. Truth is a clueless administration bent on perpetuating its reign keeps putting forward the wrong foot all the time. If Leadership staff can be so harassed, and yet they stand by their story, why make a press release to curry public sympathy rather than charge them to court to prove your case? The day monkey go go market and not return is around the corner.

Dr Reuben Abatti

This man - Reuben Abati is HUNGRY

Rueben we need more of such-against brown envelope d reporters

Is accuracy d foundation of media credibility in 9ja!?I begi!Setting the records straight is essential to restoring public trust that is eroded by errors. D code of ethics of various media bodies often urges-reporters to admit their boko haramic mistakes and correct them promptly. Not under d Jonah they yearn to bring down sha 4 APC. D Abacha of 9ja journalism Sonala is now head of junk journalism in 9ja. Said Gani contested the 2007 elections against late Yara Adua-Until I pointed out his lies-Sonanla was all over the internet, weaving his web of lies against the spirit of late Gani. The said story by Leadership was too horrifying to be true-yet the Obiama reporters from d south east, went ahead with their sponsored lies! So, if corrections are agreed to be a fundamental contract of journalism, then why have our dailies shown themselves to be hesitant to acknowledge their errors-cause of d fear of buhari & Tinubu or what?

Reuben - You are preaching to UNDISCERNING PEOPLE!

Consider translating this into several languages, including indigenous or ethnic languages, so that people here (on this forum) can understand. They can't understand 'your Grama' or common sense English, hence all you have said would be lost on the many BLOCKHEADS. Wait and see! Despite your well thought out response, many will still criticise you and come up with spurious argument. You just watch!

The sad thing is that these people are supposed to be the 'LEADERS' of tomorrow. Nigeria is doomed with their kind of mentality!

The summary of what you said are:
1. The Press does not have IMMUNITY FROM THE LAW.
2. Police duties are well defined by Laws.
3. Like the UK, the Nigerian Press should conduct themselves properly.
4. They should not be a mouthpiece, but an APOLITICAL INSTITUTION.
5. FALSEHOOD must be condemned by ALL, AND NOT JUST THE POLICE!

Abati The Dog

Maybe the Abati idiot and his principal thinks we are still under a military government.

Why lock-up a newspaper and detain journalists when they published fabrications?

They could have gone to court, but the cat is now out of the bag.

The Leadership Newspaper stands by their story and I stand with them too, not because I believed the story then to be true, but because the precidency's reaction makes me believe the story now to be true.

Rueben Jibiti gives way to Rueben Abati

This Rueben sha!!!! The activist and renowned journalist of the past was a fake impostor called Rueben (Oni) JIBITI. This is the real Rueben, now called ABATI. This is the real man now revealed before us all. This man has sank so low he has completely lost touch with reality and truth.

Abati Have You Seen The World With The President?

Sometime ago,Abati allegedly confessed that he reason he wanted to be GEJ'S mouthpiece was because he wanted to travel around the world with the President.Inane,I must say.So RA,how much of the world have you seen with the president?

"Alamieyeseigha has shown

"Alamieyeseigha has shown himself to be a dishonourable fellow, unfit to rule, unfit to sit among men and women of honour and integrity, unfit to preach to the people that he leads about ideals and values."
-~ Dr. Reuben Abati, writing in The Guardian on November 25, 2005.

"Nigerians Reaction To Alamieyeseigha's Pardon Is ‘Sophisticated Ignorance."
~ Dr Reuben Abati, March 16th, 2013

BASED ON THE ANTECEDENT ABOVE, IT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE TO TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY AGAIN MR ABATI.
I WILL NOT SAY ANYTHING ON THIS UNTIL YOU COME OUT OF ASO ROCK.
YOU NOW "TELL LIES FROM THE FOUR CORNERS OF YOUR MOUTH" (Apologies to Prof Soyinka)

3rd Mainland bridge is up for sale.

So , if I read correctly, Mr. Abati is telling us that police took it upon themselves to arrest and detain these reporters without any input from the presidency? Ok, please if you believe that then I’ll like to let you know that third mainland bridge belongs to the Ayoefa family and we are selling if you are buying. Please contact us ASAP.

Shut up!

Shut the hell up, Abati! What's the use of the convoluted blowing of hot air as though your words are worth a kobo? For your information, I consider you an inverterate liar in the same as Belzeebub. So don't even bother. When you were lying through your acursed about Patience's health, you conveniently forgot your dubious social contract. I'd feel safer with Sam Ndah-Isaiah's 'lies' instead of your so-called truth. Rubbish!

Abati the turncoat defending the Nazi tactics of his mafia lords

With each passing day, the spineless Abati sinks to a new low. As mouthpiece for Nigeria's band of election riggers, murderers and thieves of the anti-people PDP, the thug has become so desperate that he is always ready to defend the indefensible as is the case in his futile bid to justify the criminality and rank incompetence of his mafia masters in the illegal bid by the clueless Jonathan to muzzle the press . Why has Jonathan refused to take Leadership to court? Abati is vacuously equating the personal likes (or dislikes) of our nitwit of a president (Jonathan) and Nigeria's national interests. This is how tyrants and petty tin gods have historically tried to justify their evil and undemocratic tendencies. But more pathetic for Abati is his intellectually dishonest attempt to justify the Gestapo-like clampdown on the media by his master and his PDP mafia by making fraudulent comparisons with the democratic approach toward "moralizing" the British media.

Damage control by the Aso Rock pack of fools...

Reuben Abati,

This is mere damage control by you and your INEPT coward of a boss GEJ. Go tell it to the marines. Yours is a pathetic and belated rejoinder. You should have let the Attack Pig Okupe to do this dirty laundry washing. Nigeria is in a ladeship crisis.

-Ernesto Che Guevara

Reuben Abati we long lost you

Hello Mr Reuben, we long lost you to this corrupt government and is a pity that Nigeria is a nation with short memories. Am proud been a Nigerian and will always be proud of the green white green till death but you people Reuben, we long lost you to corruption, Lies and scam

Enjoy your time and leave the stage for others to come because soonest you will be EX- THIS, EX-THAT.

God bless my father land Nigeria

im still not convinced

Let Abati be honest and tell the nation that his govt didnt like the story and arrested the journalists who published it in order to send a signal to others; the signal being that in the future you should 'watch what you write' lest you get into trouble. While i dont believe the Leadership story the arrest of it's journalists is unjustified in an era of free speech which abati claims the govt upholds. Ruben where did you put your soul?

Et tu, Reuben ...

Dear Reuben, the present situation offers you as a media man an opportunity for intropection. If you were a true media man, this would have been the perfect excuse for you to resign. But you see, you have gone too deep in the come-and-chop jamboree. It is a pity to see you trade away the enormous goodwill Nigerians had for you. If you must know it, Nigerians now see you as an empty shell. It is a pity that you continue to believe that Nigerians are not discerning. The government you are serving has turned out to be a Gestapo government. If there is any bromide on the issues at stake it is to be found in your shallow platitudes. Seeing you at work, the only rational thing to say is: Et tu, Reuben!

@Reuben Abati: ask your oga-at-the-top to promulgate a miltary d

@Reuben Abati

According to you, in the UK "Some of the changes recommended include sweeping measures that will allow police officers to demand information from sources; rights for police to seize materials from the press, changes that may force journalists to reveal whistleblowers' identities; and other rule changes that may define freedom of speech."

These changes are recommended and are NOT laws yet hence police CANNOT seize materials from the press and CANNOT force journalists to reveal whistleblowers' identities YET. The question to you Mr. Abati is do existing laws in Nigeria allow police to "seize materials from the press and force journalists to reveal whistleblowers' identities"? The answer is NO. There was such decree during the military rule and it was scrapped. YOU CAN'T APPLY A MILITARY DECREE DURING CIVILIAN RULE ELSE ASK YOUR OGA-AT-THE-TOP TO PROMULGATE A MILITARY DECREE !

Abati is confused

This Uncle Reuben needs to go for Psychiatric test oo. Or is he on cheap high? He sounds confused all to please GEJ. His end is near. He will remain a fool for life.

Before the 21st Century lawyer starts nodding like agama lizard

Thank goodness RA did not advocate that journalists should be a taught a lesson like the 21st Century lawyer on SR did. I am sure that RA is aware that he will not remain in Aso Rock forever and "the whip used to beat the old wife is stored in the ceiling in readiness for the new one".

It is good for RA to quote reforms such as the Levenson inquiry report in the UK to moderate media ethics. Why did he not also suggest that Nigeria Police copy the same standard and ethics of the Metropolitan Police in investgating crime, arrest and handling of alleged offenders?

I do not think anyone in his right senses will support voodoo journalism but that should never be an excuse to teach jounalists a lesson as our 21st Century laywer suggested. Policemen in the UK are prosecuted if they use arm twisting tactics to arrest or obtain evidence of crime. Let us not just copy bit of what suits our fancy from advanced democracies but the comprehensive package of excellent ethics.

REUBEN ABATI THE EVIL IS PREACHING DICTATORSHIP

DIE OF EVIL PLOT TO SILENCE THE PRESS.
REUBEN ABATI HOW TLOW CAN YTOU GO! I AM ASHAMED OF YOU

suffering from lack of good editorial judgement-cause of egunje

I laugh when some claim accuracy is the foundation of media credibility in 9ja! Aware setting the records straight is essential to restoring public trust that is eroded by errors. Aware d code of ethics of various media bodies often urges-reporters to admit their boko haramic mistakes and correct them promptly. Not under d Jonah they yearn to bring down sha. Same with an article the Abacha of 9ja journalism Sonala penned-In it he alleged that he wrote an article in praise of late Gani when he contested the 2007 elections against late Yara Adua-Until I pointed out his lies-Sonanla was all over the internet, weaving his web of lies against the spirit of late Gani. The said story by Leadership was too horrifying to be true-yet the Obiama reporters went ahead with their sponsored lies! So, if corrections are agreed to be a fundamental contract of journalism, then why have our dailies shown themselves to be hesitant to acknowledge their errors-cause of the fear of buhari &Tinubu?

Oga Reuben, shut up & or resign

do oga Reuben think we Nigerians are quick to agree with the cover-ups or defence on every mess done by this administration which he is championing? Boko Haramist have been "at work" right from the day GEJ assumed duty @ Aso Rock & the only thing you OGAs are doing is WAR OF WORDS with Journalists using their PENS while GUNS & BOMBS are used in killing innocent Nierians by dumb-heads who put it unto your administration THAT THEY DONT RECOGNIZE DEMOCRACY NOT EVEN MR PRESIDENT!