By Inyali Peter, Calabar
The Senior Special Assistant on Public Prosecution to President Muhammadu Buhari, Chief Okoi Obono-obla has cautioned the Nigeria media against speculating falsehood against the President.
Obla in a statement issued in reaction to publication by Punch Newspaper and Premium Times alleging that the President bribed a judge during the school cert saga advised that the media should be patient enough to very facts before going to the press.
The SSA who described the high level of yellow journalism in Nigeria as “Worrisome” said that it was unfair to drag the name of the President to every publication with sensational and mischievous headlines.
According to the statement, “The penchant for some media groups in the country to chunk out misinformation or create sensationally mischievous headlines calculated to mislead is becoming worrisome.
“This morning I read a story on Punch Newspaper online titled ” I was told Buhari’s Lawyer gave Justice Ademola N500,000-witness” with some mix feelings! But as a lawyer, what that witness said amounts to hear evidence which in law is inadmissible! So why the sensational headlines by Punch? Why must Mr President be dragged into a matter he know next to nothing about?
“Is Mr President the only client to Mr Kola Awodein? So why didn’t Punch mention the names of other clients of Mr Awodein?
“As if the sensational headlines of Punch Newspaper was not enough, that of Premium Times was more intense and blazing! It was titled thus: ” Buhari allegedly gave a Judge N500,000 during the 2015 certificate saga”! It was written by one Evelyn Okakwu. Realizing the falsity and indeed inaccuracy of the story, Premium Times edited and updated the story about one hour after the publication of its previous story .
“The edited and updated story was titled thus:”Why Buhari ‘s lawyer sent N500,000 “gift” to Judge accused of corruption, Court told”! The foot note on the story read thus: “Editor’s note : This post has been edited to reflect the accurate statements of the witness. More details will be provided in the updates”.
He maintained that although the constitution guarantees freedom of expression, information and speech but such rights were not absolute therefore the media should desist from hiding under the rights to misinform the public especially about the President.
“I know the Constitution guarantee the right to freedom of expression, information, opinion and free speech. However, the right is not absolute! The Constitution itself takes away the exercise of the right where in any way it will be prejudicial to public security, public morality, public safety etc!
“Conversely, to every right vested by the Constitution, there is a corresponding duty on the beneficiary to exercise it responsibly and not infringe on the right of others. The media must desist from dragging the name of Mr President into the mud”.