Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Malicious Death Wishes & Poor Journalism in Nigeria!

By Paul Adujie
Friday, 09 March 2007
A segment of the Nigerian Press and news organizations, hit a new low in the past couple of days, as they engaged in poor taste journalism or as they engaged in the most inappropriate trade of rumor mongering!

The Times of Nigeria was leading the pack in ignominy, as it announced “the passing” of Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Governor Umar Musa Yar’Adua

The Times of Nigeria was later, to issue a quasi retraction and contrition, saying that it “exaggerated” the “death” of the PDP presidential candidate. I thought that The Times of Nigeria committed and egregious error! It failed to verify and cross-check facts regarding news of such enormous nature and importance, as it rushed to judgment in pronouncing a man, dead, while the man is still living! Should the Nigerian press not have covered the news regarding the ill-health of Governor Yar’Adua with some sense of responsibility?

Does the presidential candidature of Governor Yar’Adua not require some circumspection, some reserve and some sensibility on the part of news reporters, who chose to spread the rumor of his “death”? Governor Yar’Adua candidature confers a status, and stature, a character of national importance and high magnitude, why would any “journalist” rush to repeat and spread speculations and rumors of his “death” so “authoritatively“, but falsely?

Some Nigerian journalists have just added impetus to “don’t believe what you read in newspapers!

It is beginning to appear as if, in these electioneering campaign season, all is fair in war? But what happened to ethics? What does an ethical publisher and his editor think is fit to print? I just happen to live in New York, where my hometown newspaper prides itself with a mantra, “All the news that is fit, to print”

Can anyone pretend that the momentous gaffes and goof-offs, by Nigerian journalists regarding Governor Yar’Adua were reasonable or ethical practice of journalism? Why would any person announce the death of another without a knowing certainty of actual death of such person? Why did Times of Nigeria and others rush to announce the passing of Governor Yar’Adua, who is not just an average individual, but a presidential candidate of a political party in Nigeria in an election that is a little over a month away?

Let us assume that the publishers and editors of those news organizations, which engaged in these death wishes, were all members of Action Congress, even so, it is still expected, that real journalists, would object and kick against such filthy and fetid journalistic style of maliciously announcing the death of political opponents!

We know that journalism is for the most part, an agenda-driven, as it is said, where you stand depends on where you are sitting; so that a social conservative may not in her newpapers, necessarily espouse socially liberal views. But what we have witnessed in Nigeria is brazen! A complete breach of rules, ethics, common sense and whatever is left of our collective conscience and sensibilities.

Why would anyone consider the announcements of death of political opponent a strategy? Why would an political party consider death wishes, as malicious and as wicked, as was demonstrated by some in Nigeria, a campaign strategy?

Why can’t these politicians, political parties and the publisher and editors that are beholden to them, stick to publishing and emphasizing the “manifestoes” if, these political parties without core issues and agendas, actually intend to make any headway with the Nigerian electorate?

If I were an athlete, say a boxer, what does it benefit me, to announce the death of my opponent, instead of actually training and preparing to meet my opponent in the ring, with trained savvy punches? I proceed to maliciously announce my opponent’s death? How does that enhance my jabbing and uppercuts? What if my opponent does not die by the date of the scheduled tournament, and he is ready with trained deadly punches?

I must confess that so much, even too much, has been made of Governor Yar’Adua’s physical health. It true that Nigeria is a big tough country and Nigerians need a healthy and physically fit person to vigorously pursue our national issues, our national interests and all our concerns. I am not Governor Yar’Adua’s personal physician, and neither are his critics!

Let us be clear on this matter of physical health and good governance! Let us compare Nigeria with America and Israel. America had a very popular President Roosevelt, he was the champion of a long lasting legacy of good public policies. President Roosevelt was responsible for massive public works programs that ensured the constructions of highways and bridges across the 50 states of America. He pursued successfully, what is euphemistically referred to as the New Deal and the benefits are still present for all Americans and immigrants like me to see! President Roosevelt, was a physically disabled person and he was wheel-chair bound during his presidency! But good presidency nonetheless!

President Kennedy was one of the most popular president that America ever had, and by all accounts and all measures, President Kennedy’s presidency was hugely successful, even though the duration was short, his short-lived presidency arose from his assassination of course, but, he had physical disability as well during his presidency, he had a debilitating lower back pain, which is well documented.

I grew up, reading news about a late Israeli leader, Mr. Moshe Dayan, who is world renowned for his accomplishments and his conquering powers, and yet, he is one-eyed!

Moshe Dayan was famous for his black leather patch over one eye!

America is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, when soldiers are killed, the American Press is required to embargo announcement in the media, until the next of kin of such soldiers are contacted and informed by the American military, the average American soldier is accorded such respect, by the American Press! Imagine if it were an American presidential candidate?

Only recently, I had argued the same thing, regarding “truth and objectivity” as I criticized CNN reporting on our Niger Delta, MEND and kidnappings. It bears repeating here, that America did not allow the world press to report footage of body parts and gory details of the World Trade Center attacks! Were it in Nigeria or Africa? Nigerian press would show blood, gory details in the most insensitive manner, all in the name of “truth and objectivity”! We are in the era of poor journalism in Nigeria!

In the Governor Yar’Adua’s case, it has become even worse, in its new development! It is, as if you do not like your political opponent, wish him dead, or better yet, announce his death? How reckless? How insensitive? How egregious?

Why are some Nigerians not focused on manifestoes of the political parties, but instead on who might die and who might not before April? And by the way, who is privy to the medical conditions and physical fitness of the other presidential candidates of other political parties?

Are some just focusing on Governor Yar’Adua for some other reasons?

Has journalism and morality reached such new lows in Nigeria?

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