The Nigerian Presidency has strongly condemned what it calls an upsurge in the promotion of hate speech by the media especially as it relates to the farmers/herders crisis in Benue state.
The condemnation was made Friday by the spokesperson of President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, while briefing State House correspondents.
Mr. Shehu said 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 the frequent expressions of hate speech published by newspapers, in news stories and especially in columns have become a source of concern to all Nigerians.
“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,” he said.
“Unfortunately, self-regulation which is the norm in civilised 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…’,” he said.
The presidential spokesperson also said 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.”
He also reminded those “beating the gongs of war and fanning the embers of discord” to 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.
He also said Mr. Buhari, by the Constitution, has the primary duty of protecting life and property of all Nigerians, adding “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”.
Mr. Shehu appealed to the media to show more decorum and professionalism in the reportage of security and humanitarian situation in the country.