By Ayobami Akanji
“If journalists want long term credibility in their profession, they should go in that direction. Have more respect for readers” ~ Julian Assange
On April 14 2018, Ahmad Salkida – a freelance journalist, broke the internet with a 26-tweet thread, which itemized the status, according to him – of the pending 113 abducted Chibok Girls, still in captivity with the Boko Haram insurgents, claiming that only “15” are alive. This trended worldwide, across social media and traditional media, with various national and international newspapers carrying screaming headlines on the day parents of the girls were savouring the anguish of not seeing their daughters in the last four years. Salkida noted, with a wave of his hand, that some have been married off, killed in friendly fire, are slaves to the insurgents, etc. Only to come forth two days after and correct his earlier tweets – saying that 30 of the girls are now alive, such inconsistency is dangerously alarming.
Without taking the anguish of the parents into consideration, the tireless efforts, of government – plus risk embarked upon by our security personnel who are totally committed to bringing back the girls safe and alive. It is safe to say, Salkida took the very unethical path of a journalist in this reportage that borders solemnly on preserving National Security. He sometimes, as key security analysts argue, his tweets “ reads like the state of the union address by the insurgents”
This warrants us to ask if the freelancer journalist is caught between two stools?
The case of James Rosen is a pointer to the State going the extra mile to safeguard the nation. The Department of Justice (DOJ) got a secret warrant to access his email and retrieve information deemed National Security risk. No one should be an aider, abetter or co-conspirator with insurgents who are hell-bent on destroying the Nation and pose threats to the peace and stability of our regional allies – by giving them their oxygen “publicity”.
The carnage brought by actions of this misplaced insurgency should warrant the cooperation of all and sundry in sharing the rightful intelligence with the appropriate authorities, and less space given to the insurgents, who thrive on fake news to bolster their dwarf importance. The freelancer should stop barking up the wrong tree. It has been established that Salkida bites off more than he can chew and aligns that with a vague besmear of his person.
It is important to mention the existence of a blurry line between media freedom and National Security. Journalists as the representatives of the fourth estate of the realm are to guard against possible harms from unauthorized disclosures of information which are potentially harmful. It is the duty of a journalist to know which information (s) to be shared publicly and what truly should remain secret in the interest of National Security. There is a need for a clear understanding that peace and development can only take place when there is security, and we can’t have freedom where the state is non-existent.
Unfortunately, we have a Presidential aspirant who uses his online platform – which can be described as a guerrilla hub – to disseminate fake news in the guise of discrediting a government he wants to replace. To achieve this sinister motive, his platform which is not an oasis in the desert, claimed blatantly that “BH Captures Damasak 24 hours after Buratai’s Visit.” This was a tissue of lies from the deepest pit of hell, as own troops led by the Chief of Army Staff repelled the attack and inflicted maximum damages on the insurgents. It is a known rule on the streets that one shouldn’t get high on his own supply.
Nevertheless, ethical journalism should be upheld religiously by those in the craft of news-making and ensure that facts are cross-checked before disseminating them for consumption. A strive for accuracy, not clicks or re-tweets is important when putting out information with the aim of avoiding harm on the general populace.
We remember with nostalgia, the glorious days of journalism; how bad a topic was more or less a determinant for how furious your punishment will be. We remember the powerful pen of Dele Giwa, the unmatched prose of Dan Agbese, the almost photographic memory of Ben Lawrence, coherent viewpoint of Garba Shehu, well scripted editorials of Dare Babarinsa, the creative madness of Femi Adesina and many more. We remember how true these men were to the ethics defining their profession, how they won’t, for any price or ego, compromise their standards nor would they drag their profession into murky waters of being nonplussed. Sadly, what we are seeing today is parallel to the above quote by Assange.
These days, falsehood is almost prophetic as people who still cling to the crumbs of yesterday’s bazaar that was wiped away by the new Sheriff in town are united in their desperate bid to see anything bad about him. So glued they are in their pedestrian attempt to feel good about a man they feel bad about, that they suspend their sense of thoughts in a buffer and allow their emotions the freedom to roam about the other side of the city.
However, it is poignant to highlight the transparency adopted by the security agencies in updating Nigerians on activities of the Armed Forces in the Theatre of Operation. We salute the Nigerian Air Force who, strategically brief Nigerians about the amount of air sorties, Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) conducted, the mission of such operations which are either; providing support for offensive/clearance, conducting independent air operations, degrading the enemy, etc.
Obviously government and media leaders need to create a convergence of communication were they both can share concerns among one another with the view of understanding each other’s perspective without compromising National Security.
President Buhari, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces has been consistent in his desire to have the abducted girls rescued alive, he restates this all the time: “There will be no rest till the last girl, whether from Chibok or Dapchi, is released”, he posits. We experienced he swift response of government in rescuing the Dapchi girls, same is ongoing for the remainder of the Chibok girls and the lone Dapchi girl in captivity.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Akanji is a security analyst and writes from Abuja
By Ayobami Akanji