By Eze Kelechi
The Association of Media Practitioners of Nigeria (AMPN) has descended heavily on Mr. Chijioke Edeoga, governorship candidate of Labour Party in Enugu State, over his desperation to tannish, demarket and de-legitimatize members of other political parties and some of his perceived enemies in the just concluded elections in the state.
The association of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, made up of young, professionals and experienced journalists and writers from different media organisations, while reacting to frequent pressure and heavy financial inducements thrown at their members by Mr. Edeoga with instructions to publish unverified, defamatory contents as news on national dailies against certain persons, noted that it became a subject of concern when Mr. Edeoga pleaded with them to forget about the sources of the news but do the publications as their sources were immaterial.
AMPN observed that members of the association had been raising concerns of being slapped with defamation suits by victims of such malicious and libelous publications, adding that it would no longer tolerate any pressure and financial inducements on journalists in the name of Mr. Edeoga, claiming to be a journalist who had done his background check before sending those contents to journalists for publication.
“Our members are worried over the news being frequently manufactured by the governorship candidate of Labour Party in Enugu State, Mr. Chijioke Edeoga against his opponents. He usually leaves journalists with no room to verify those claims as news coming from him usually arrive at a time when we are in newsroom ready for publications. The question is; why always in the rush whenever he sends news.
“We are guided by the ethics of professionalism in this job, and we believe that those indices that should make us accountable and responsible to members of the public such as impartiality, objectivity, fairness, truthfulness, accuracy, etcetera should be present in our reports. While we appreciate financial support by Mr. Edeoga, we would also like to caution him to desist from sending fake and malicious news against people as that could put our members in trouble,” part of the statement reads.
The latest of the fake news, AMPN further noted, was the report credited to the South Eastern Zone of the Network of Evangelical Bishops of Nigeria (NEBN) personally written by Mr. Edeoga and forwarded to different media organisations for publication against yesterday and today.
The terse statement, signed by the Chairman of the AMPN, Comrade Chukwunonso Asogwa, maintained that some of their members started raising alarms in their group when Mr. Edeoga told them that he urgently wanted the news to appear on the front pages of all the national dailies with the promise of paying each of them two hundred thousand naira.
It added that, due to the malicious contents contained in the news sent by Mr. Edeoga de-legitimatizing his opponent, and Enugu State Governor-elect, Mr. Peter Mbah, and its potential to cause disaffection and uproar in the state, their members individually demanded for video evidence, pictures and phone numbers of the leaders of the alleged bishops so as to verify their claims.
Mr. Edeoga, however, dismissed their requests, telling them he was a senior journalist who would not lie to them. On further probe, he asked them to forward their bank details as they would be rewarded handsomely as a friendly media person.
Some journalists who insisted that the right thing must be done, quoted some congratulatory messages recently issued by the Enugu State Christians Association of Nigeria, bishops of different denominations to the governor-elect, and wondered if these influential bishops were not members of the NEBN, demanding that they would not publish the news until it would be verified.
“It was this discussion and the attempt to cajole them with bribe that made our members to raise alarm of possible compromise by some wicked political propagandists who wanted to hijack the media and use it to achieve what they could not achieve through the ballot papers. How would bishops, who are known to be non-partisan, engage in such political rascality, making incendiary statements and adjudging you to be winner of election which the Independent National Electoral Commission had announced before the whole world that Mr. Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party, having polled the highest votes, was returned winner of the comparatively adjudged free and fair election in the country?
“We decided, in our group forum, to make independent verification through our fact-checking devices on the alleged association of bishops, their meeting and the press statement, and found out it was all lies and misleading information as no body as such existed. It was disappointing that politicians could go this extent of fabricating false and malicious news from their bedroom and insist on forcing journalists to do their bidding.
“We want to sound it clear that, Journalism is a noble and responsible profession that must be guarded against political interference and distortion. We are the eyes through which the members of the public can see and assess their society. We urge Mr. Edeoga to stop exerting pressure on our practitioners to publish fake news and drag our profession on the mud.
“The Association wishes, therefore, to inform members of the public to disregard the fake news from the non-existent bishops and other too-true-to- believe news as coming from those politically desperate to destroy the law and the society using the media. Even though we are not unaware that some media outlets had been financially compromised and indeed, published the vicious and malicious false news, we would remind them that journalists are the conscience of the society and must not allow themselves to be dragged into the murky waters of politics by politicians without integrity and character,” the statement concluded.