The Nigerian Guild of Investigative Journalists (NGIJ) has weighed-in on the face-off between journalists and Ebonyi State government, urging stakeholders to intervene and resolve the brewing crisis.
In a statement released to the media on Friday by Mr Israel Bolaji, NGIJ Vice President, Information& Strategy, the Guild specifically called on the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Guild of Editors and other media stakeholders in the country to investigate allegations of deliberate peddling of falsehood and creation of public panic levelled against Ebonyi State correspondents of The Sun newspaper, Chijioke Agwu, and the Vanguard Newspaper, Peter Okutu, by the State governor, with a view to resolving the imbroglio.
Following the arrest and release of both journalists in separate instances within a week, the State governor, David Umahi had on Wednesday banned the two correspondents, from entering Government house and Government facilities in the State for life during a statewide live broadcast aired on the State’s Television and Radio stations.
The governor who had expressed disappointment with the state NUJ officials also threatened that ‘Ebonyi people are very angry with the press and let me warn that I won’t be able to control them or know when they unleash mayhem on you if you continue to write to create panic in the State.’
The NGIJ counselled that, ‘As much as the indisputable role of Journalists as partners and critical stakeholders in nation-building is sacrosanct, the profession upholds the highest level of ethics and standards and expects every practitioner to be responsible.’
“As far as we are concerned, journalists must be free to carry out their duty without any fear or hindrance anywhere within the nation. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as well as many other international Charters, guarantee that.
“The State government needs the media to continue to act as a watchdog and sensitise the public; that must be continuously done with the highest level of integrity, professionalism and fairness.
“However, if established, the persistent publication of falsehood, inaccuracies and misleading information amounts to libel, which is criminal and totally frowned upon by the NGIJ. Such has no place in professional journalism.”
The assertion of the governor about ‘withdrawing the allowance of the leadership of the NUJ in his state for failure to call the boys to order’ is of great ethical concern and must be investigated.
Also, the NGIJ took note with great concern, the “peace meeting” today between the Ebonyi Correspondents Chapel and the State Commissioner for Information, where the NUJ pledged ” developmental Journalism”. The Guild is of the opinion that the meeting should not have been facilitated without the leadership of national NUJ and the NGE.
“We call on our highly respected veterans and officials of the media bodies to establish the underlying issues, resolve amicably and assure that Ebonyi State, and indeed, the entire nation, remains safe for all journalists to contribute their quota to national development.”