Journalism, like any other noble profession is practice by diligent, educated and proud people. A journalist undergoes tutelage and is well appraised of the norms, do’s and don’ts of the profession. A journalist, variously known as reporter or editor remains with that tag for life even if he ventures into any other profession. One of the main tenets of journalism is credibility. A journalist or media house must be credible, reliable and trustworthy. The news from a credible media house is regarded as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When the reading public starts doubting the authenticity of news published by a media house, such a medium is slowly inching its way into oblivion or extinction.
Since the start of electioneering campaigns in 2014 a particular media house Sahara Reporters, though an online medium has been dishing out numerous false report about individuals and organizations that make the discerning people like this writer think twice before believing stories from the house. A few months ago it announced to the whole world that the Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Buratai acquired some properties in Dubai which he did not declare in the appropriate Code of Conduct Bureau Document. The news later turned out to be false as even the Code of Conduct Bureau has given the Army General a Certificate of Clearance.
There are many other instances where report of Sahara Reporter where seen as malicious, fabricated or altar false. Take for instance a news item in the online medium on Tuesday October 11, 2016 with the headline Chief Judge of Nigeria’s Federal High Court implicated in $13m bribery Arrest. It reported that Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court Abuja, in whose home over $550,000.00 was allegedly found during the raid on his resident by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) last weekend had confessed to a deal between him and Justice Auta by which $300,000 of the physical cash found in his bedroom was to have been shared between the two men. As a news hound, I have search other online media and many print media publications to read the news of this “confession” by Justice Ademola to the DSS but I did not find it. May be this information about this confession was exclusively given to Sahara Reporters. Such a big story, a front page news by any standard. The credibility is definitely suspect. There were many other allegations against the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court in the said confessional statement by Justice Ademola. The report also stated that “Sahara Reporters learnt that C. J Auta was quizzed and quietly released the previous day by the DSS.” Diligent investigation carried out by this writer which are easily verifiable indicate that Justice Auta was never invited by the DSS not to talk of his being quietly or loudly released. Reliable information further reveal that in his written statement to the DSS, Justice Ademola never confessed to any crime nor did he implicate anybody include Judges. The alleged confession is therefore a mere figment of the imagination of Sahara Reporter. How far can a news medium go to damage the reputation of a judicial officer or impugn his integrity.
It is common knowledge that the Judiciary is the last hope of the common man. Officers in the temple of justice are seen as being used by Almighty God to dispense Truth and Justice to all manner of persons. They are highly regarded as infallible, fear and equitable in their arduous task. However, being human-beings and not God they can make mistakes. Some of them may even fall to the temptation of bribery as the National Judicial Council has discovered and punished in recent time. But it beats ones imagination why lies and false hood will be fabricated to malign an innocent Judicial Officer just to bring him to disrepute, odium or contempt.
What does Sahara Reporters gain by this resort to gutter journalism? I do not know if Judicial Officers are allowed to take legal action in matters like this, while still on their desks. If so I humbly advise or rather request Hon. Justice Auta to take appropriate steps and seek redress on the damage done to his reputation by Sahara Reporters. When the media house pays reasonable amount in damages and compensation, it will learn the bitter lessons and practice journalism the way it should be practiced.
Instead of attributing false hood to a confessional statement allegedly made by Justice Ademola to the DSS, why not wait for the DSS to use the confessional statement in the charge it will prefer against the Judge and perhaps Justice Auta. The Sahara Reporters story is in fact disgusting, disappointing and out rightly tendentious. Sahara Reporters should retrace it steps now before it becomes history as an agent of blackmail, character assassination and sensational publications, full of sound and fury, but unfortunately signifying nothing, apologies to William Shakespeare.
–Chike Okeke is a Public Affairs Analyst