The Presidency on Friday expressed dismay at what it said was hate speech in media reports and commentaries on the recent killings in Benue state blamed on Fulani herdsmen.
Senior Special Assistant to the president on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, said while briefing State House correspondents, that the Presidency was worried that ethics of journalism profession were being increasingly discarded by some practitioners.
While displaying the headline of one national daily to prove his point, he averred that the Nigerian media was sinking deeper and deeper into the mesh of hate speech.
Shehu maintained: “I am here this afternoon to address you on some pressing issues concerning our noble profession and to appeal that members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm should show more decorum and professionalism in the reportage of security and humanitarian situation in the country.
“The growing lack of respect for journalism ethics and press laws in the Nigerian media, especially regarding the clashes in Benue State is very unfortunate.
“The frequent expressions of hate speech published by newspapers, in news stories and especially in columns is indeed a source of concern to all.
“We want to state emphatically that a segment of the Nigerian media is sinking deeper and deeper into the mesh of hate speech in spite of repeated appeals by recognized and reputable media bodies, the Government and concerned Nigerians.
“Unfortunately, self-regulation which is the norm in civilised societies has taken flight from many of our newsrooms.
“Apart from the basic tone of respect expected from an individual who is supposedly intelligent and educated enough to know better since they have been granted space to write in a national newspaper, there is the risk of inciting the public to actions that will have gory consequences for the entire nation for generations to come.
“Those beating the gongs of war and fanning the embers of discord must remember what prevailed in Rwanda before the genocide of the early 90s, during which hundreds of thousands of lives were lost as a result of consistent hate speech spewing from that country’s media.
“We must learn to express our grievances and criticisms without resorting to gutter language or to name calling, and the press has a responsibility to maintain that even if it means calling their columnists to order.
“President Buhari, by the constitution, has the primary duty of protecting life and property and that is what he has been doing in Benue and across the country.
“Calling him a murderer is not only grossly disrespectful but unfair, especially when the President has written a letter to the Senate detailing his efforts to quell the crisis in Benue State, including dispatching the Minister of Interior and the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations for an on the spot assessment of the situation in the aftermath of the unfortunate incident; and receiving a direct briefing from the IG the following day.”
Asked why the deployment of troops to Benue happened only after the killing of seven Fulani travellers in Gboko and not after the earlier killing of 73 Benue indigenes, the presidential aide asserted that only the Minister of Defence, Mannir Dan-Ali could answer the question.