In Defence Of The Nigerian Journalist —Isaac Asabor



Every professional or virtually everybody in all fields of human endeavour are faced with hazards in the course of carrying out their assignments. The Nigerian journalist, as a professional news gatherer, is not exempted from any hazard. In fact, his own kind of hazard is peculiar in the sense that he suffers for what he knows nothing about.

The head, as a physiological part of the body, is always reprimanded with a knock whenever the anus emits fart before the elders. The plight of the head as part of the body, no doubt, may be likened to that of the Nigerian journalist. He is like the proverbial grass that suffers whenever two elephants fight.

During the military era, the Nigerian journalist was seen as an enemy of the dictatorial regimes. During any democratic era, the Nigerian journalist is seemingly seen as an enemy even by government appointees who were once his colleagues.

In the process of gathering news, the Nigerian journalist may face professional hazards that range from mere snubbing to assassination. He is always snubbed by those he sees as news sources. Worse still, some mischievous sources may deliberately avail the journalist a false information that may drag him to court for libel or seditious case.

Recently, Nigerian journalists were bombed in their offices by members of the Boko Haram sect. The question on the lips of many Nigerians was (and still is) “Why was the journalists bombed by members of the Boko Haram sect? This million naira question, no doubt, has become difficult to answer because the innocence of the Nigerian journalist is very obvious. He was bombed for doing his job.

However, answering the question from a conjectural perspective would reveal that members of the Boko Haram sect apparently felt that their activities were not reported in a panegyric context. Simply put, they must have felt they were not favourably mentioned in news stories about their heinous activities.

To me, giving the Boko Haram sect favourable mention in the media would be an unpatriotic act and a great disservice to the nation.

A great percentage of the news stories on Boko Haram’s violent activities against Nigeria and Nigerians were supported with photos. An English proverb says “Every picture tells a story”. In my personal opinion, the Nigerian journalist never misrepresented the facts on the issue of Boko Haram.

If I may ask, “Were leaders of the Boko Haram sect expecting the Nigerian journalist to kill some of those implicating and revealing photos and begin to praise them for exploding bombs all over the northern part of the country?

The Nigerian journalist, being a watchdog of the society was not trained to fall short of societal expectation. He owes the society the obligation to serve. That is how he was trained. He was not trained to kill any news story meant for the consumption of the society. He reports the news the way it is.

With the foregoing analysis, it is very obvious that the Nigerian journalist is performing his duties according to the ethical standard of the journalism profession. Since that is the case, why are Boko Haram leaders angry with him? To me, the Boko Haram leaders have no iota of casus belli to throw virtually all the northern part of the country into a near war situation and expect the Nigerian journalist to be doing panegyric write-ups on their activities.

The Nigerian journalist is trained to be patriotic. He is trained to be reporting facts. He is not trained to be fabricating news or slant news story to favour anyone to the detriment of the country. The Nigerian journalist always sees the bigger picture – which is Nigeria – whenever he is gathering news. Therefore, he is a patriot. The peaceful co-existence of the ethnic nationalities that make up his country is always at the back of his mind. Moreso, he has been taught, both in school and at work place the techniques of crisis reporting in order not to exacerbate crisis.

The leaders of the Boko Haram sect, therefore, should not expect any panegyric article or news story from the Nigerian journalist because he is not trained to be a praise singer or to be an accomplice to evil.

Also, we had in the past other militant groups that fought for one cause or the other. While they engaged in their various struggles, they never resorted to bombing public or private institutions and the office of any international organization at random.

Rather, they resorted to the use of public relations techniques in order to create public awareness for their cause and struggles, apparently to elicit public sympathy. At different times, they issued press releases to the media; either to debunk some allegations levelled against them or to asserverate their innocence. In some cases, they claimed responsibility for some attacks. Their leaders were not faceless like the leaders of the Boko Haram. They participated in phone-in-programmes aired on some radio and television stations. They were never cowed by security agents.

They were frequently arrested and released. Their names were widely known and mentioned by everyone. Their places of residence and business were known. Some of them were derogatorily labelled warlords but they kept on fighting by making their grouse known to anyone who cared to know. They granted interviews to the Nigerian journalist whenever it was necessary.

Therefore, I am through this medium urging Boko Haram leaders to carry out their struggle in the same way and manner other fighters did. Fighting for a particular cause is not a cat and mouse affair. They should create awareness for their struggle, and possibly resort to the use of dialogue.

It would be germane to mention in this piece that one of the qualities of a good news story is balance. Balance in news story writing means getting all sides of a story without showing any evidence of partiality. If I may ask, were the leaders of the Boko Haram sect ever bold enough to come out openly from their hidingout to tell the Nigerian journalist the essence of their struggle and what they want? If they had been doing that, the Nigerian journalist would have helped them to disseminate their messages. The Nigerian journalist is neither tribalistic nor partial. He sees every Nigerian as one, irrespective of tribal or religious affiliation.

Given the foregoing analysis, one would be tempted to ask again, “why are Boko Haram leaders angry with the Nigerian journalist?

Finally, leaders of the Boko Haram sect should come out from their hiding and let the world know what they are actually fighting for. The world does not know the cause they are fighting for. Are they fighting a political war? Are they fighting a religious war? Are they fighting a tribal war? Are they fighting a social equity war? These are the questions Nigerians and the rest of the world are asking.

They should stop seeing Nigerian journalist as their enemy. They should stop their guerrilla tactics of fighting, and deploy communication techniques and the media into full use to express their grouse.

•Asabor wrote in from Lagos