by Jerry King Nwobodo @JerryDKingTP
Premium Times has sacked a reporter over a story credited to Miyetti Allah on the recent Fulani herdsmen killings in Plateau in which over 100 people were killed.
After the story in which Miyetti Allah’s Danladi Chiroma was quoted as saying that the attacks on 11 Plateau villages were retaliatory went viral, the said Mr. Ciroma denied ever saying such.
It turned out that there wasn’t a recording, a telephone conversation or any signed statement to back up this report.
The Premium Times report by Mr. Andrew Ajijah, quoted Mr. Ciroma as saying:
“These attacks are retaliatory. As much as I don’t support the killing of human being, the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on revenge mission.”
“Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks – 94 cows were rustled by armed Berom youths in Fan village, another 36 cows were killed by Berom youths. In addition to that, 174 cattle were rustled.”
In the light of this develoomnt, and the sensitivity of the matter, Premium Times published a responce saying:
“While Mr Ciroma acknowledged speaking with a reporter on Monday in Jos, he insisted to PREMIUM TIMES that he did not make the statement credited to him. In fact, he said what he told the reporter was the opposite of what was reported.
“I told the reporter that leaders at the local and national levels should come together and resolve this crisis before it is too late,” Mr Ciroma said by telephone Wednesday night, protesting strongly the comments attributed to him.
“An internal investigation by PREMIUM TIMES found that there was no recording of any interview in which Mr Ciroma made the statement, neither was any statement signed or circulated by him that contained the quotes.
“The error was traced to our outstation reporter based in Jos, whose failure to properly attribute the source of the purported statement by Mr Ciroma misled the editors into believing that it was e-mailed to the reporter.
“The reporter filed the story on Monday morning based on ‘a statement’ from Mr Ciroma. But checks by PREMIUM TIMES following Mr Ciroma’s protest on Wednesday afternoon showed that the quotes were lifted from The Nation Newspapers.
“The Nation’s reporter in Plateau State also circulated the quotes in the WhatsApp group of reporters on the government house beat in Jos, telling his colleagues they were the full transcription of his interview with Mr Ciroma.
“The reporter later admitted to PREMIUM TIMES that he did not have a recording of his call with Mr Ciroma, but said the quotes mirrored the Miyetti Allah leader’s position on the latest killings in Plateau State.
“The Nation published the purported quotes by Mr Ciroma hours before our reporter in Jos lifted it without attribution, thus misleading his editors in Abuja.
“PREMIUM TIMES management has initiated an ethics and professional review of the reporter’s work; how it came to be that his sourcing for the story fell below house standards, and how his documentation fails to measure up to expected standards for verification and accuracy.
“Even if Mr Ciroma made the purported statement, newsroom managers agreed yesterday, the expectations would be to report it with proper recording or digital footprints, for the simple reason that ethical journalism places the onus on the reporter to document proof of sources’ contribution to a story.
“When one of the editors on duty called our reporter to find out how the story was sourced shortly before passing it on Monday morning, he said it was personally sent out by Mr Ciroma. This turned out to be the WhatsApp group broadcast by The Nation reporter, which several other Jos-based print and electronic correspondents sent to their respective media organisations throughout Monday.
“This again brings to fore the limits of a common culture in Nigerian beat reporting where correspondents share stories amongst themselves in the manner of pool reporting. While journalists cannot be at two or more events simultaneously, standards in ethical reporting require reporters to ensure thorough verification of any second-hand information”.
According to NAN, the publisher of PREMIUM TIMES, Dapo Olorunyomi, admitted that PREMIUM TIMES was in error to have published an unverified syatement.
“This is very much below the standards of verification we strive to maintain and for which we have come to earn the trust of our readers. As a first step, we are sending an apology letter to Mr. Ciroma regretting the mischaracterisation of his role, and assuring him that a disciplinary process is currently apace to ensure accountability for the breakdown in our editorial procedures.”
Although Miyetti Allah denies issueing this incriminating statement, the group cannot be absorbed from the killings as they had openly opposed the Anti Open Grazing Bill in Benue and supported the killing of innocent Nigerians. Also, as villagers run from their villages in Plateau state, Fulani herdsmen could be seen occupying the vacated territory for grazing of their cattle.