The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity told journalists in Abuja on Friday that many media organisation are guilty of reporting hate speech as it concerns the report of clashes in Benue State.
“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 expression 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.”
The presidential spokesman said also condemned a publication in a national newspaper which said ‘‘President Muhammadu Buhari was the first to endorse the Benue massacre’’ on New Year Day stating that this is inciting members of the public.
Shehu also cited example of a national newspaper with the headlines: ‘Expect More Blood in Benue.’
“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,” he said.
He appealed to the media to express criticisms without resorting to name calling.
“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.
Calling for respect for the position of the President, Shehu said President Buhari according to 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.”