By Samson Abu
“Support PREMIUM TIMES’ journalism of integrity and credibility. Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government. For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour. By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helpingng to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.”
The above sentence is what readers on the Premium News platform are confronted with for every news story. The appeal is strong and meant to elicit monetary donations from members of the public in the sustenance of “journalism of relevance.”
Whatever the motives of Premium Times are in soliciting for monetary donations from members of the public remains to be unravelled in the fullness of time. I am still struggling to come to terms with it because I have had reasons to question the editorial stance of Premium Times in times past.
When I see responsible journalism, I know it. When I also see irresponsible journalism occasioned by mischief and a price tag for every news story I also know. I stand to be corrected; Premium Times is leading in this fold, especially when it comes to issues that concern the Nigerian Military in the fight against Boko Haram terrorist group in North-East Nigeria.
Having all these in mind, I sparsely visit Premium Times let alone rely on the genuineness of its reportage of issues. But a senior colleague of mine and an expert in conflict and security drew my attention to a publication in Premium Times titled “EXCLUSIVE: Nigerian Army ‘secretly trying’ soldier who criticized service chiefs on social media” he left the following note for me:
“Your good friends are in their elements again. This story is not about the soldier, but that of the Service Chiefs. You can guess what is up. Happy reading”
Out of curiosity, I followed the link to the story and to say I wasn’t disgusted at the display of shoddy journalism would be an understatement. My conclusion was that with the likes of Premium Times, journalism has indeed gone to the dogs in Nigeria.
As a first, I knew after reading the first paragraph that someone has made a “modest support” in the accounts of the organization towards helping “to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.”
The trajectory in the story was poor. No media house that is well structured and abides by the journalism creed would sanction such a disjointed story lacking in every form of integrity and professionalism.
The Premium Times story reminded me of an article “Thinking about the Symbiotic Relationship between the Media and Terrorism” written by Mohammed Elshimi, where he stated that that the media does not create terrorist organizations, but it does promote terrorism. The principal distinction to bear in mind is: once terrorism gets going, the relationship between terrorism and media becomes symbiotic.
He stated that ‘Symbiotic’ explains how these strikingly different actors become interlocked in a relationship hinged on a convergence of interest: the media’s insatiable drive to supply content is simultaneously mirrored by the strategic necessity of terrorist movements for the oxygen of publicity.
“The media provides a platform for terrorist movements to broadcast and amplify their message to global audiences. Without this platform, the message of terrorist movements would not reach beyond its very immediate locale and therefore would remain unknown to most people outside the confined boundaries of the attack.”
Enter the world of Premium Times in Nigeria where the medium has been notorious in promoting acts of terrorism in Nigeria. Their scathing campaign against the Military is indeed legendary. They seem to have absolute disdain for the operations of the Nigerian Military in North-East, Nigeria for inexplicable reasons.
I recall that sometime in 2016, the Chief of Army Staff sued Premium Times for libel and character assassination. And since then there has been no love lost between the Nigerian Army and Premium Times. In my opinion, this recent diatribe by Premium Times is nothing but a huge distraction to the counter-insurgency operations in North-East Nigeria.
I am aware that the military authorities have stated that the soldier involved in the online video that went viral would be placed under observation and counselling. That was the most rational thing to do in a circumstance like this and not what Premium Times wants members of the unsuspecting general public to believe.
Premium Times must understand that a warfront is different from a newsroom and therefore the need to be circumspect in the propagation of half-truths. This is also on the heels that the country is at the last phase of the Boko Haram war and Nigerians may have forgiven those that contributed in promoting the war in the past but not anyone or organization that further prolongs the war through whatever means.
This is not a time for distractions, and it’s such a shame that Premium Times is that veritable tool identified by those against the interest of Nigeria to distract the Nigerian Army. Sufficing to add that the prerogative of the tenure of the Services Chiefs in Nigeria is that of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
And for those interested in the Service Chiefs, I wonder in whose interest they want this to happen. I can bet that it is not in the interest of the country, but that of their cronies and business partners whose trade has been greatly affected since the Nigerian Military turned the tide against the Boko Haram terrorist group.
Even though it is expected that these merchants of war would fight back, the interest of the country must supersede personal interest. The promoters of Premium Times must realize and desist from availing their medium to unpatriotic elements to further fan the embers of war in Nigeria. The agitation is needless. It would only serve the purpose of denting further the already dented image of the organization by their often malicious stories on individuals and organizations.
It must be stated, and expressly so that since Premium Times cannot substantiate their claim of a secret trial, it would be in the interest of remnants of their reputation to retract their story and commit themselves to the best practices in journalism.
Premium Times must not distract the Army at this point. The authorities have said the soldiers involved in the outburst would be put through observation and counselling on the heels that emotions can run riot in war situations. This is normal and not peculiar to Nigerian troops engaged in the Boko Haram war in North-East, Nigeria.
The Nigerian Army is in the process of taking stocks, and it is expected that the Boko Haram group and their collaborators would fight dirty, including launching vicious attacks using different mediums and methods. And the Premium Times charade is an example of an uncharitable Salah gesture to the efforts of the Military in the push emancipation of North-East Nigeria from the clutches of Boko Haram terror group.
Needless, I mention that terrorist activities won’t thrive if there are no collaborators in the chain of violence. Some carry arms, some facilitate logistics, and some propagate their activities. Premium Times must stand out and not be counted as accomplices to acts of terrorism in Nigeria when the history of the Boko Haram insurgency is written.
Terrorism knows no tribe religion or organization for we all are victims of their fangs. Consequently, there must be a unity of purpose to defeat terrorism in Nigeria. The media has a vital role to play in this regard. This is the time for the press to join ranks with the generality of Nigerians that have given their support to the efforts of the Nigerian troops in battle. There is no need magnifying issues that would provide the Boko Haram terrorist the psychological boost that they so crave. For that in itself is aiding and abetting their activities.
Premium Times should take a cue from other media organizations in Nigeria. No doubt, they boast of some fine blend of journalists in the country, but this credit must be channelled in the right way and the interest of Nigeria. This is a piece of advice.
Abu is a freelance journalist based in Maiduguri.