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PUBLISHERS WITH NO BURDEN OF MORALITY

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Today, the challenge of conservation of extraordinary upright standards and high quality journalism, key restrains in the sustenance of a democratic society, is as tough as ever. But it is also as essential as ever organization embrace this. “For journalism to stay relevant in the future, ethics has to be at the Center. Let’s take a cursory look at an Abuja based newspaper whose publisher/proprietor is a pharmacist and hails from the North Central.

He is currently engrossed in a confrontation with the Honorable Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed with a standing directive that all negative stories about Mohammed should make front pages of his titles. Interestingly, extensive land allocations in the FCT have been made to the media house proprietor that is not a journalist, facilitated by the same minister, now at the receiving end of his missiles. FCT sources allege he has been asking for much more. By curiously giving considerable space in his titles to the contents of a Kaduna based junk magazine, Desert Herald newspaper and its publisher, Alhaji Tukur Mamu who has sworn to bring down the FCT Minister, the services of a seer is hardly required to gauge the publisher’s true motive. It will be recalled that the FCT Minister recently served notice of his intention to slam a five billion Naira the Desert Herald newspaper and its publisher, Alhaji Tukur Mamu for defamation and libel following series of damaging publications against him by Mamu through his newspaper and two others. The notice of the impending legal action was served on the defendant last Tuesday by the counsel to the FCTMinister, Chief Joe K. Gadazama, SAN and associates.

The Abuja based newspaper started out as a weekly publication on September 29, 2004.Today, under the proprietor’s fostering wings as Chairman/Editor-In-Chief of the Newspaper Group, the brand has grown to include a SUNDAY, Weekend, Friday and Hausa editions.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, the Abuja based newspaper stable has had its fair share of polemics and confrontation with the state and other public stakeholders. But significantly, these border on issues and breaches of professionalism and ethics of press practice. In November2008, the newspaper was embroiled with the late President Yar’Adua administration over erroneous reports of that the president missed attendance of a particular function in Abuja on account of his ill-health. It was confirmed that the late president actually attended the function.

Mr. Rasaq Barkindo, the current publisher of The ROAD newspapers was the newspaper’s editor then. Rather than apologize, the pharmacist turned media house proprietor interestedly backed the error and stuck to his claims of victimization even during the court processes. The death of Yar’Adua eventually proved a saving grace for the newspaper. More recently the newspaper published the banality of an alleged directive issued by President Goodluck Jonathan.In this connection, the Federal Government hired a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, to prosecute the two journalists working with the Abuja based Newspaper (the Group News Editor, Tony Amokeodo and politics reporter, Chibuzor Ukaibe). Both stood trial at a Federal High Court in Maitama, Abuja on a 10-count criminal charge bordering on forging a presidential directive. But the charges were withdrawn on instruction of a benevolent presidency, coinciding with The World Press Freedom Day.

But these charges were recently refilled by the federal government and in court. The proprietor has several major wars with different stakeholders going on. Some say he revels in these. The Abuja based publisher who many allege is extremely subtle and xenophobic to criticism has instituted a legal action against the Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Gaidam and five others over alleged defamation. In a suit before an Abuja High Court, the pharmacist turned media house proprietor also named Abdullahi Bego, a media assistant to the governor of Yobe State; Media Trust Limited,publishers of Daily Trust; Vintage Press Limited, publishers of The Nation; Blueprint Newspapers Limited, publisher of Blueprint, and Peoples Media Limited, publishers of People’s Daily as co-defendants to the suit. He is also demanding N5 billion damages against Gaidam and the five other defendants.

With over 23 editors and acting editors for the Abuja based newspaper titles in eight years these are rather indicative of a fundamental problem in the group’s management. This is especially so when it’s is realized that this number represents the highest turn-over of that cadre of staff on the continent’s vast print media industry. Also, the unprecedented huge turn-over of its junior editorial staff is a horse of a different color. It’s no secret that the publisher absolutely calls the shots in the establishment and has actually confirmed this to those who cared to ask.It’s also no secret that the Abuja based newspapers represent the cash-cow of the proprietors’ artificial empire as it’s an open fact that most of the establishments garbed up as enterprises are running at losses but sustained by the handsome proceeds from the newspapers. Should this scenario excuse the unprofessional-ism repeatedly being exhibited by this publisher? This is not helped by an environment that lax statutory regulation of vast strips of public and national interest fields.

It is essential that something is done significantly and immediately to remedy this mendacious situation of unprofessional-ism, before it goes viral and threatens the very fabric of journalism in Nigeria.

Written BY: IBRAHIM SARKIN YAKI.

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