Tuesday, 18 October 2016

On arrest of judges and Sahara Reporters’ slant

JOURNALISM, like any other noble profession, is practised by diligent, educated and proud people. A journalist undergoes tutelage and is well apprised of the norms, dos and don’ts of the profession. A journalist, variously known as a reporter or editor, remains with that tag for life even if he ventures into any other profession.

One of the main tenets of journalism is credibility. A journalist or media house must be credible, reliable and trustworthy. The news from a credible media house is regarded as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When the reading public starts doubting the authenticity of news published by a media house, such a medium is slowly inching its way into oblivion or extinction.
Since the start of electioneering campaigns in 2014, a particular online medium, Sahara Reporters, has been dishing out numerous false reports about individuals and organisations that make the discerning people like this writer think twice before believing stories from the house. A few months ago, it announced to the world that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Buratai, acquired some properties in Dubai which he did not declare in the appropriate Code of Conduct Bureau document.

The news later turned out to be false as even the Code of Conduct Bureau has given the Army General a Certificate of Clearance. There are many other instances where reports of Sahara Reporters were seen as malicious or false. Take for instance, a news item in the online medium on Tuesday October 11, 2016 with the headline, Chief Judge of Nigeria’s Federal High Court implicated in $13m Bribery Arrest.

It reported that Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in whose home over $550,000.00 was allegedly found during the raid on his residence by operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, last weekend had confessed to a deal between him and Chief Judge Auta by which $300,000.00 of the physical cash found in his bedroom was to have been shared between them.

As a newshound, I have searched other online media and many print media publications to read the news of this “confession” by Justice Ademola to the DSS but I did not find it. Maybe this information about this confession was exclusively given to the media house. Such a big story is a front page news by any standard. The credibility is definitely suspect. There were many other allegations against the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court in the said confessional statement by Justice Ademola.

The report also stated that “Sahara Reporters learnt that C. J Auta was quizzed and quietly released the previous day by the DSS”. Diligent investigations carried out by this writer which are easily verifiable indicate that Justice Auta was not invited by the DSS not to talk of his being quietly or loudly released. Reliable information further showed that in his written statement to the DSS, Justice Ademola never confessed to any crime or implicate anybody, including Judges.

The alleged confession is, therefore, a mere figment of the imagination of Sahara Reporters. How far can a news medium go to damage the reputation of a Judicial Officer or impugn his integrity. It is common knowledge that the Judiciary is the last hope of the common man. Officers in the temple of justice are seen as being used by Almighty God to dispense Truth and Justice to all manner of persons. They are highly regarded as infallible, fair and equitable in their arduous task.

However, being human beings and not God, they can make mistakes. Some of them may even fall to the temptation of bribery as the National Judicial Council has discovered and punished the guilty ones recently. But, it beats one’s imagination why lies and falsehood will be fabricated to malign an innocent Judicial Officer just to bring him to disrepute, odium or contempt.

What does this medium gain by this? I do not know if Judicial Officers are allowed to take legal action on matters like this, while still on their desks. If so, I humbly advise or rather request Hon. Justice Auta to take appropriate steps and seek redress on the damage done to his reputation by this medium. When the media house pays a reasonable amount in damages and compensation, it will learn the bitter lessons and practise journalism the way it should be practised.

Instead of falsely attributing a confessional statement to Justice Ademola, why not wait for the DSS to use the confessional statement in the charge it will prefer against the Judge and perhaps, Justice Auta. The story is in fact disgusting, disappointing and tendentious. This media house should retrace its steps now before it becomes an agent of sensational publications that are full of sound and fury, but unfortunately signify nothing, apologies to William Shakespeare.





Mr. Chike Okeke, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Lagos.











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