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Ayade, journalists on warpath over land grab story, govt threatens legal action

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Cross River State governor, Senator Ben Ayade

We can’t be cowed into doing your bidding, says NUJ
There is no love lost between the Cross River State government and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), as the former has threatened legal action against the latter over a story published in some national dailies recently.

Even with the threat, the Correspondents’ Chapel in the state has said that journalists would not be cowed into doing government’s biding all the time.

The chairman, Mr. Judex Okoro, stated this in Calabar yesterday in reaction to the recent threat of legal action against journalists by the government.

Chief Press Secretary and Special Adviser to the governor, Mr. Christian Ita, had at the weekend accused journalists of blackmailing Governor Ben Ayade by reporting the state negatively, and threatened legal action.

His allegation was coming from the recent reports in most national dailies accusing Ayade of forcefully acquiring people’s lands for projects in the state.

Ita said no amount of negative report would dissuade the governor from accomplishing his goal of turning around the economy of the state via his industrialisation policy.

But Okoro described the threat as a declaration of war against journalists in the state.

His words: “It is unfortunate that every government that rode on the back of the media to power usually turns up to make the media a scapegoat.”

“We are being threatened with legal action for doing our work. We cannot be cowed into doing government’s bidding all the time or publishing propaganda and sensational press releases from your media team.

“We are totally committed to responsible journalism that tells the truth in a more accurate, objective, balanced and dignified manner.

“The theory of social responsibility in mass media advocates free and responsible media. In other words, journalists (not bloggers or citizen witnesses a.k.a. citizen journalists) should hold the government of the day accountable to the people, and if government feels maligned or that journalists are going out of their way to abuse the freedom, you seek legal means. You have chosen the latter and we cannot be cowed by that proposed action.”

Chairman of NUJ in the state, Victor Udu, urged his members to adhere to standards and ethics of the profession despite threats of legal action by politicians.

Udu stated, “We have a standard and we must keep to that standard; truthful and fair journalism. Our duty at any point in time is to act as a check to government. Politicians will not like it; but as long as we are doing the right thing, in accordance with the mandate we have, I am satisfied.”


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