The leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists has warned its members and other media practitioners to avoid libelous publications and being pawns to dubious individuals and groups.
The Union in a press statement by the Assistant National Secretary, Akorede Opeyemi, Wednesday in Abuja, stated: “It has become urgent and imperative to draw the attention of our members that in our ethical demand for good governance, transparency and accountability from all segments of society, we should not yield our various platforms and civic space to individuals or groups out to settle personal scores or advance their personal interests in the guise of fighting corruption and promoting good governance.
“Over the past few weeks, the Union has been inunndated with complaints from government officials and entities, that some groups masquerading as civil society in cohoot with some journalists, are out to tarnish the good names and reputations of some officials in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), especially in the oil and gas industry.
“While we applaud the commitment of credible groups to expose corruption and demand accountability, we are not unmindful of the antics of a few for personal gains.”
The Union recalled that, “Only recently, an individual who claimed to be a journalist was fingered in the siege at the home of a Supreme Court Justice.
“As a Union committed to press freedom and the protection of journalists, we urge our colleagues to be guided by the Code of Ethics of the NUJ and be wary of individuals and entities who we have gathered are doctoring statements of accounts and have photographed buildings, commercial and residential, of some public officials as being corrupt either for personal gains or vendetta.
“If any group feels strongly and are certain of their facts, they should petition the various anti-graft agencies and even approach the courts for an Order of Mandumus to compel the government to act.”
The NUJ leadership further stated: “The Union wishes to remind our colleagues of the legal consequences for acts that bother on criminal defamation and libel, and the willingness of these individuals and groups to use the journalist as the expendable in the event of legal challenge.
“It behoves on the Union to remind each and everyone of us that “liability for libelous publications is not limited to the original author or publisher thereof, but it also extends to and includes all those who, out of sheer ignorance, mischief or malice, or all, cause any libelous publication to be repeated, reposted or re-published, either personally or through any platform for which they have control.”
It added that, “It is in this regard that the Union will not expend energy and scarce resources on matters that ordinarily should have been guarded against.
“However, the Union will not shirk away from any case(s) of witch-hunt or harassment and intimidation of any of its members doing their legitimate jobs.”