By Toby Prince
Amid the widespread debate which trailed the Nigerian Army’s invasion of Media Trust office in Abuja on Sunday, a civil society group, Save Human Advocacy Centre (SHAC) has accused the newspaper of endangering troops and civilians.
The Daily Trust edition of Sunday, January 6, 2019, published a story with the caption; ‘Military prepares massive operation to retake Baga, others.’
The publication incurred the wrath of the Army, who was on the eve of delivering a final blow to the Boko Haram sect in Northern Borno.
The said report divulged details of a military operation meant to flush out terrorists who have occupied Baga, and other communities close to the Lake Chad, hence exposing the troops and civilians alike to danger.
According to SHAC, the Nigerian Army have received unfair criticism over the siege.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Mr Abutu Daniel Abutu, its Executive Director, instead opined that the publication outfit should receive all the knocks for failing to abide by the ethics of the profession.
He, however, urged the media house to as a matter of urgency apologies for jeopardizing the remarkable work of the gallant troops.
“The criticism of the Nigerian Army, most of which was done in haste, failed to properly understand the magnitude and the impact of the decision of the newspaper to publish details of a military several days before it was conducted,” Mr Abutu began.
“Those that desire to support Daily Trust or castigate the army should consider the end point of the newspaper’s decision and action. The story should be looked at from the viewpoint of what the media house in question wanted to achieve by publishing it and what consequences could and have arisen as a result of this action.
“That single story compromised the lives of the military personnel deployed for the leaked mission, NGOs that work in the affected areas and civilians that are under the protection of the military. The publication confirmed speculations that the recent success of Boko Haram terrorists in inflicting casualty on the military was facilitate by some organizations that pass information received in confidence unto the terrorists. The story similarly opened the civilian population to the danger of being killed or displaced from their homes once the military is unable to dislodge terrorists because details of their operation have not only been leaked but published.
We further gathered that the Daily Trust’s publication prompted a mass movement of Islamic State (ISIS) fighters from the Middle East and North Africa into Nigeria, ostensibly to offer support to its Boko Haram franchise against the military. This callous type of reporting has therefore harmed public good in Nigeria instead of supporting it.
“The preponderance of views among those that are not beholden to imperialist interest is that the newspaper erred and should have promptly retracted the story with apologies to the parties that would suffer harm as a result of its actions. This is yet to be done, which has further allowed an unnecessary controversy over the appropriateness of publication to fester.
“We want to point out to the newspaper that the arrogant stance it adopted in this matter is a disservice to those who once held its reportage in high regards without realizing that what they read from the publication was sourced without respect for ethics less the long term wellbeing of its Nigerian readers. The demand is therefore for Daily Trust to climb down from its wrongly assumed moral high ground to concede that it erred and subsequently sue for understanding from the military.
“We appeal to the media industry to maintain a patriotic stance in the interest of humanity and not allow their reporters, editors and organizations to be compromised to the point of threatening national security.
“We further appeal to the military not to lose momentum in the counter-insurgency war on account of the sabotage of its operation by the newspaper but should rather count the event as a chance to identify the components responsible for the leakage of its classified operational information. “