Nigeria Police Victim of Fake News Syndrome- Premium Times
At a time all lovers of civil liberties, especially freedom of speech and the press, are celebrating the latest victory against anti-democratic forces in Nigeria, a fake report putting words in the mouth of our reporter should be the last thing we should be responding to at PREMIUM TIMES.
But since the Nigeria Police Force, an institution that has the capabilities to discern facts from fiction, has failed to live up to its calling, the buck has been passed to us to set the records straight.
As you are all probably aware by now, the illegal attempt by the police to coerce our journalists to reveal the sources of a story suffered setback with the release of Mr Ogundipe on Friday on a court-approved bail.
Samuel Ogundipe, a reporter at Premium Times, after his release from the Police Station
Mr Ogundipe’s freedom after three long nights in police’s illegal custody was widely celebrated not only in Nigeria but far beyond our shores.
We released a statement thanking those who helped pressure the police and the Nigerian government to free the journalist and cease criminalising media practice.
Mr Ogundipe also posted a message on his Twitter handle expressing his gratitude for the unprecedented show of solidarity which he received while in custody.
But as congratulatory messages were pouring in for the PREMIUM TIMES’ team, some concerned citizens were also reaching out to verify the authenticity of a message which they said was gaining traction on social media.
The message claimed Mr Ogundipe claimed he was pressured by the police to incriminate the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, as the source of his story. The poorly-written and obviously fake narrative, which was not published by any reputable media outlet in Nigeria or elsewhere, also quoted our reporter as saying he was tortured while in detention.
Even on Nairaland where it initially appeared, it now seemed to have been taken down by the forum’s administrators who must have realised it was nothing but a gut-wrenching hoax.
Despite the high volume of telephone calls and messages we received over the fake news on Friday, our initial resolve was to ignore the dubious propaganda so as not to amplify the lies.
But we are now left to issue this rejoinder after the police swallowed the false narrative and thereafter widely circulated a statement reacting to it. PREMIUM TIMES did not publish the police’s reaction to the fake news, but some bloggers did here.
By issuing a statement to respond to a false narrative, the police became one of the latest victims of the fake news syndrome. The truth is at no time during the interrogation of our reporter did police investigators pressure him to implicate anyone. All they wanted to know were the sources for his stories. The police also did not physically torture Mr. Ogundipe during his three-day ordeal in detention.
Although we remain committed to fighting the latest onslaught on our reporters to a logical conclusion, we will do so with facts, decency and social responsibility. We will never accuse the police of offences they did not commit.
It is, however, disappointing that the police, with all the investigative resources placed before them by the Nigerian people, were unable to separate facts from fiction. For a law enforcement agency to make decisions based on rumours and unsubstantiated claims is frightening and unacceptable. On so many grounds, the police failed Nigerians, whose hard earned taxes go into funding their operations.
If anything, this demonstration of incompetence could further fuel concerns by Nigerians about the police’s ability to protect lives and properties. Crime rates have remained high across the country, even though budgeting to the force has largely improved.
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER