Jos Massacre: Premium Times Sacks Reporter Over False Reportage, Begs Miyetti Allah Leader

As a result of what has been termed false reports credited to Miyetti Allah concerning the mayhem which occurred in Plateau State where no fewer than 100 people were murdered in cold blood, Andrew Ajijah, a reporter with one of the popular online platform, PREMIUM TIMES, has been sacked.

It was equally the resolve of the PREMIUM TIMES management that an apology would be sent to Danladi Ciroma, the North Central leader of the apex cattle breeders’ organisation as a result of the story published on June 25, 2018.

It would be recalled that the story captioned, “Killing of nearly 100 people in Plateau ‘retaliatory’ — Miyetti Allah’’, eventually turned out not to be the faxt, according to reports.

In specific terms, the online news platform had made public that the violence which took place in 11 villages in some local governments was retaliation by the herders whose cattle were killed.

According to the report filed by the sacked Ajijah, Ciroma was quoted as saying that, “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.

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“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.”

The above statement, prompted Miyetti Allah to distant itself from the said report, which had caused the cyberspace to vibrate.

Miyetti Allah had equally frowned at the suggestion that t justified the killings of over 100 people in Plateau State.

PREMIUM TIMES PUBLISHER, DAPO OLORUNYOMI

Consequently, PREMIUM TIME contends as follows: “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.

“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.

“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.”

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