In writing my column last week I started out with the intention of devoting at least half of it to the reactions, by text and email, I’d received on my piece about the subject above of the week before. As usual the reactions were a mixed bag but mostly abusive and emotional. Among them, however, was this highly readable and sensible piece by one, Emmanuel Lar, that seemed supportive of my thesis but, read in between the lines, also seemed to say to me “physician, heal thyself.” Lar’s response was what triggered my intention to publish some of the reactions to my column in question.
In the end, however, last week’s piece took up the space provided for it. Hence my decision to still publish those responses today in the hope, albeit admittedly forlorn, that Lar’s exemplary appeal to reason rather than to emotion would help in pointing the way to the media on how it can play its role in the resolution of the Boko Haram and other forms of sectarian violence threatening, not just the peace and unity of the country, but its very existence. I have edited the responses, especially Lar’s, for space, and in the case of texts, for spelling.
Your article in the Wednesday Column gives an insight into the role and importance of the media in crisis situations such as the one Nigeria is presently going through. The crux of its message is the need for the Nigerian media to be objective, factual and balanced in their reporting, especially in crisis situations that border on sentimental issues like religion. Never at any time in the history of our nation has the media been as critical to our survival as a nation and even as individuals because indeed “the clouds of fear are gathering” over our heads.
A cursory glimpse into most of our newspapers today will reveal how yellow they have all suddenly turned. The reporting of the Boko Haram phenomenon especially has degenerated into a war of indoctrination based on falsehood and crass sentiments.
Returning to your column, I would like to cite two examples from the article of how the media can negatively influence the perception of a section of a population in a crisis situation.
The first is the general definition and perception of the Boko Haram sect and what it stands for. It has been commonly reported that the activities of the sect are essentially targeted at Christians and Christianity and that they are either sponsored or carried out with full knowledge of the Muslim leadership in Northern Nigeria. Although overtime and with the modus operandi of the group many may be tempted to accept this position, the origins of the organization and the general feelings and reactions of a majority of Muslims especially in the north about the sect’s actions would prove otherwise. This is a fact which many of us can attest to. However, the media has failed to do a deep reflection and investigation to bring out the truth in this case. It has become too fixated on a religious propaganda to the near total exclusion of facts that would educate the public about the sect and its objectives. Christian leaders must look beyond the propaganda in order to find lasting solutions to the trust deficit that this crisis has thrown up.
The second issue is the recent relocation notice given to residents of some villages in Plateau State and which you also cited. The reporting of this notice which is an entirely military operation has been so colored that what was supposed to be a “temporary relocation order” as we were all made to understand was reported and interpreted as an “eviction order” targeted at a particular set of people. This is not minding the fact that the residents of these villages include other tribes which have been living together all along until the recent crisis. This to my mind is pure propaganda and “one sided coverage” which is also an example of a “more propagandist than factual and objective” reporting as you stated in your column.
Sadly, our religious leaders have fallen victims of this propaganda. The recent statement by the Secretary General of JNI is a pointer to this fact. For a highly respected Muslim leader like the Secretary General who has lived in Plateau State to make or accept to sign such a statement is not only intriguing but baffling.
In all when one considers the lopsided and bias manner of reportage by local and even international media in the entire country in recent times, one sees the failure of our media as a watchdog that is capable of constantly engaging “in deep reflection that will enable it realize its full potential as a guardian of good governance and tribune of sustainable development.”
More worrisome is the uneven spread of media houses in the country which leads to misrepresentation of information and facts on crucial issues that border on cultural and religious interrelationships and differences. The north is today worst hit by this negative propaganda which is affecting all facets of its existence as an entity. This is simply so because it is a victim of a self inflicted imbalance in media representation due to negligence and failure to recognize the media as a tool of mass information and integration. Over reliance on foreign media that are heavily skewed towards one language and culture and the assumption that power only resides in the office are also contributory to all these. The shift from mass information to propaganda for both religious and commercial ends has already put the North in self destruct mode. The onus is on experienced professionals like you to change this ugly trend.
Commenting on the killing of over 500 people in Dogon na Hawa in Jos some years back, this same Mohammed Haruna reported that the Hausa Fulani Muslims were being attacked in their land of birth as against the widely known and held truth of Berom people being attacked on their land. It is therefore not surprising to hear this abuse of civic liberty coming from the same Mohammed at this point of national disaster when we should all sympathize with Nigeria, the North and indeed, the good people of Plateau State on this continuous massacre of their people, mostly women and children, on their land by these callous, mindless and Godless people.
Not only has he (Mohammed) shown that same ethnic and religious sentiment that has hitherto divided this country. He has demonstrated his lack of sincerity in reporting issues that border on national security and unity. This is rather unfortunate, shameful and disheartening.
What is not good is certainly not good.
Alexander from Jos.
You have captured it as it is! Our greatest threat is indeed the media. I was actually dumbfounded yesterday, 17th July 2012, listening to Channels 10pm news. After all the details we received that an Islamic school was attacked, with one boy killed, Channels reported it like this ” A school (Note, a school, without mentioning Islamic) was attacked early today, with one person killed, but it was ascertained that the school was not the actual target(without saying who told them that).” However, in the main body of the news, the military man there, and all other persons around, attested to the fact that it was the Islamic school that was attacked.
My point: If it were a Christian school that was attacked, the headline would have been like this “A Christian school was attacked early today”! I am saying this because I watch Channels regularly.
Still on your today’s article, there is picture that appeared on page 23 of Thisday today with caption “recent crisis in Kaduna.” This same picture was all over Facebook during the post-election violence of last year and was taken in Kano.
I just read your piece and was wondering if you are a supporter of Boko Haram. Let it be known that we Christians will not sit back and let you terrorists Islamise Nigeria when it is so obvious that has always been your secret plans but you all have failed woefully.
One with God is more than a million Mohammed Harunas.
Point of correction: the ultimatum in Plateau was not 24 hours but 48. Cross check facts before you write, ok? By the way aren’t the Fulanis settlers and trouble makers? Please be careful when you put pen to paper!
Israel from Abuja
I stand corrected about the deadline.
WE ALL KNOW YOU ARE BOKO HARAM. YOU TALK ABOUT LIBERTY FOR ALL INCLUDING THE SUCCOURERS OF BOKO HARAM LIKE YOU WHO DO NOT CARRY THE GUN. YOU WILL PAY FOR IT SOMEDAY.