The Muhammadu Buhari administration has in no way been involved in the harassment or murder of any journalist since its inception six years ago, contrary to the inference of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) in its 2021 Press Freedom report.
The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) described the allegation against President Buhari in the said report as “reckless, dangerous and callous”.
In a press release signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, BMO said that it was mischievous to attempt to link crimes committed against media practitioners in States where they work to the President or his administration.
“We have gone through snippets of various media accounts of the 2021 Press Freedom Report released by the Media Foundation for West Africa, in collaboration with the Nigerian Union of Journalists which detailed the murder of eight journalists, and we can only conclude that it is a poor attempt to present the government as one that is averse to the media.
“There is no doubt that all the journalists named in the report were killed in different parts of the country, but there is nothing to suggest that the Buhari administration is complicit in any of the murder incidents. None of the journalists could be said to have had previous run-ins with any government official at the federal level, or has done any journalistic work that could be said to be critical of the President, yet NUJ was comfortable to make a reckless inference that should not be associated with the media profession.
“We would expect an organisation with a responsibility to its members to put pressure on local authorities in States where the identified journalists were murdered to ensure proper investigation of what are clearly homicide cases after all those years, rather than the attempt to put the blame at the doorsteps of the President.
“One of the journalists, Famous Giobaro was, at the time he was shot dead in his bed, a staff of the Bayelsa State government and we wonder why NUJ and its partners have not deemed it fit to pressurize his employers to ensure a thorough investigation of the death since 2017.
“So why drag the central government into issues that local authorities could be taken up on? Or Is it part of an orchestrated plot to present the President as a despot? And since Press freedom is the issue on the ground, we challenge the NUJ to bring up the name of any journalist who is in jail for criticizing President Buhari or his administration”.
BMO also noted that while the Buhari administration is creating a conducive atmosphere for freedom of expression in the media space, NUJ and other bodies associated with the profession should do more to ensure that their members carry out their duties with some responsibility.
“It is becoming normal to see or hear media practitioners churning out misinformation or outright lies on a daily basis. This development is more rampant on the radio with On-air Personalities (OAPs) who by practice are expected to be broadcast journalists with a good grasp of any issue they choose to dabble into, but this sadly is not always the case.
“And in spite of serial infractions committed by these individuals, NUJ and other bodies have not been living up to their responsibility to rein in its members with a view to entrenching professionalism in the media.
“Regardless of this, we make bold to say that no journalist, whether print, broadcast or online practitioner, has either been harassed or detained for criticizing the federal government.
“We also invite Nigerians to note how the Presidency washed its hands of the anti-media bill which many people still cite as proof of the federal government’s intention to stifle free speech and press freedom, even when it has been established that it is a bill sponsored by a member of the opposition in the House of Representatives”.
The group assured Nigerians that President Buhari would not take any action that would breach provisions of the Constitution he twice swore to uphold, but also urged NUJ and its partners to be fair to the Federal government, rather than make reckless inferences.