The Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) has cautioned its members against being used for blackmail, intimidation and other questionable practices by politicians.
The union also warned against providing the platforms for individuals to settle personal scores in a statement by the National President, Chris Isiguzo, National Secretary, Shu’aibu Leman, and National Treasurer, Bamidele Atunbi.
According to the statement, the union has been inundated with complaints and entreaties by the Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Power, Ministry of Finance, and heads of parastatals that some groups masquerading as civil society in cohort with some “journalists,” are out to tarnish their good names.
The statement read in part: “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 inundated with complaints from government officials and entities; the Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Power, Ministry of Finance, and heads of parastatals, that some groups masquerading as civil society in cohort with some “journalists,” are out to tarnish their good names and reputations alleging corrupt acts.
“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 and settle scores.
“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 for political expediency and turf protection, are engaged in extra-legal means and ways by allegedly 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 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 expendable in the event of legal challenge.
“It behoves on the Union to remind every one of us that “liability for libellous 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 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.”