By Mike Odiakose
Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has condemned the recurring malicious publications against former Chief of Army Staff and current Nigerian Ambassador to Benin, Lt General Tukur Yusuf Buratai (rtd).
According to the group, the campaign of calumny are being sponsored by a top serving military aide of President Muhammadu Buhari who wants to rubbish the towering stature and the global image attained by the erstwhile Army Chief.
HURIWA advised media houses to adhere strictly to ethical codes of journalism practices which highlight the key role of factuality, objectivity, balance and sticking to the provisions of the Constitution and the plethora of Media laws and especially the law against defamation and libel.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said it is a manifestation of junk journalism bereft of respect for professional ethics for News media of all genres to be in the perpetual habit of publishing libellous and untrue falsehood against personalities.
HURIWA said a fresh publication which rehashed a rested subject matter on the Dubai properties of Buratai has just surfaced in a section of online media. The subject matter which the said publication hastily tried to re-post to the public has since over four years been put to rest by the Federal Authorities as the Code of conduct Bureau having investigated the matter cleared Buratai of any wrongdoing and found him not guilty.
“But for these media practitioners to intransigently continue to accuse the ex-COAS staff of corruption after he has been cleared over four years ago is reckless and there is more to this recent attack launched by the specific media House this week.”
HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “These publishers are serial defamers having written falsehoods against many personalities including Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in 2020, accusing the number two man of collecting N4bn from former acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.
““The falsehood peddled by these media houses against Buratai should not be left unattended to and one wonders why a sane person would rehash an issue that has been rested and cleared by federal authorities more than four years ago. This is why HURIWA praised the legal team of General Buratai for promptly responding to these latest rounds of defamatory publications against their client.
“It is appalling that journalists who hitherto practiced with some good reputation in Abuja years back would be available to be used by a senior military aide of President Muhammadu Buhari who hates Buratai’s towering profile and went about hiring hack writers to try to demonise the General apparently because he is a gentleman.
“This action of these media practitioners is unprofessional and unethical. Section 391 of the Nigerian Penal Code states that ‘Whoever by words either spoken or reproduced by mechanical means or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm or knowing or having reasons to believe that such imputations will harm the reputation of such person, is said … to defame that person.’
“Articles 512–514 of the Nigerian Criminal Code are quite plain on this issue, ‘Defamatory matter is matter likely to injure the representation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by an injury to his reputation…’
“The IGP should probe these persons to stop the reckless actions and serve as deterrence to others.
Also, General Buratai is encouraged to consider legal alternatives even though it is very clear now that it is a mere smear campaign coordinated by haters who are out for selfish political vendetta.”