Benue killings: Presidency warns press against hate speech, disrespecting Buhari

* says it can cause ‘Rwanda genocide’
By Chesa Chesa
The Presidency on Friday warmed the press against disrespectful comments against President Muhammadu Buhari in the wake of recent killings by suspected herdsmen in Benue and neighbouring states.
Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, who briefed State House correspondents in Abuja, lamented that such disrespect for the presidency and ethics of journalism as well as unending hate speech was capable of plunging Nigeria into the kind of genocide that was experienced in Rwanda.
He made examples with a recent edition of The Sun newspaper with the headline ‘Expect More Blood in Benue’; and one of the paper’s columnists, Amanze Obi, who accused Buhari of endorsing the Benue massacre, and described Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, as ‘a Fulani irredentist’ for blaming anti-grazing laws for the killings.
Shehu pointed out that calling Buhari
a murderer is not only grossly disrespectful but unfair, and that columnists and journalists should not abuse their responsibilities by using gutter language or inciting Nigerians to wage war against each other.
Shehu said 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 recognised and reputable media bodies, the Government and concerned Nigerians. Unfortunately, self-regulation which is the norm in civilized societies has taken flight from many of our newsrooms.
“For instance, a recent column published in a national newspaper (The Sun newspaper), said ‘President Muhammadu Buhari was the first to endorse the Benue massacrea�� on New Year Day. The same columnist described the Minister of Defence, Mansur Muhammad Dan-Ali as a�?a dyed-in-the-wool Fulani irredentist who places trade over and above human lifea��.
“The diatribe went further to invite citizens of the country to arm themselves and fight each other. In addition, one of the newspaper’s Saturday headlines proclaimed: ‘Expect More Blood in Benuea��’
“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.”

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