EVEN WHEN THEY KILLED DELE GIWA…JOURNALISM DID NOT DIE by Frank Tietie

 

The thought that is still probing to date, is why was Dele Giwa killed? Abounding stories in a typical Bendel State neigbourhood had it that Dele Giwa knew too many secrets about people in the military government of that time so they made sure he was killed with a letter bomb so that all other journalists who also had secrets about the government would be made to be so scared that they would hurriedly choose to forget such secrets.

Today, in Nigeria, the Freedom of Information Act says nearly all, if not all of government’s business must be made public and should no longer be secret. Therefore, if possessing secrets made them kill Dele Giwa at that time, now that government’s business is open and no more secretive, why then should journalists still be at risk?

Secrecy in the affairs of government is the bedrock of corruption. Corruption has been on a progressive increase since Dele Giwa was killed. There are hardly any memorial lectures held in his honour these days. The question would be, why would any people continue to hold such an event snd Dele Giwa memorial lectures by the way? Who would organise such lectures? May be Gani Fawhehinmi or Newswatch would have done so. Unfortunately, both of them have died. While Gani replicated himself in many human rights activists of today and thus, continues to live on, Newswatch on the other hand went into extinction.

Bendel State, the forerunner of current Edo and Delta States was home to the Nigerian Obsever, undoubtedly the best newspaper in West Africa in the late seventies and early eighties. Bendel was the natural birthplace of journalists and media moguls which included Dele Giwa himself, Anthony Enahoro, Prince Tony Momoh, Alex Ibru (The Guardian) and not too recent ones like Sam Amuka Pemu (Vanguard), Nduka Obaigbena (Thisday), Raymond Dokpesi (AIT) and John Momoh (Channels TV), all from Bendel State, to name a few. Yet neither the government of Edo State nor that of Delta State has ever held a memorial event in honour of such an outstanding journalist like Dele Giwa. Why would they after all? Should Dele Giwa, someone who fishes for government’s secrets be set as a good example for the young people to emulate?

Secrecy in government is corruption. How many journalists are prepared to use the FOI to demand that Ibrahim Magu for example, should disclose his official miscellaneous expenditure in his official capacity as the acting chairman of the EFCC? That may not be a convenient task for news gatherers and contract story writers to undertake but that’s what Section 22 of the Constitution of Nigeria demands of the journalists. NNPC, CBN, NCC, CAC, and all MDAs are open for the journalist to probe into and report his findings to the people. Journalists should no longer be invited by these agencies to come and be told what to write in exchange for pittance. Those government agencies have public relations departments who should issue press statements and press houses should be at liberty whether or not to use such PR materials except they are expressly paid for to be published. Press houses and journalists should increase the consciousness that they are at liberty to initiate their own reports as they are free to approach any government office and have access to any information they require. That is journalism in this age of the freedom of information.

There should be no such thing as investigative journalism. A journalist is a journalist! All his reports must be factual and verifiable having applied a sense of investigation. A person who writes what he has been told to write whether or not he is paid is not a journalist. He is probably a public relations consultant.

There is something that some persons who operate government really don’t like about journalists, especially those journalists who want to know or in fact, know some secrets about the operations of government and its officials. It is that class of journalists that has become so hated, faced with high risk and could probably go into extinction on account of merely carrying out proper journalism.

If there is so much opacity and darkness in the finances of today’s government and has bred so much corruption, it is because there were no journalists to probe government.Therefore, journalists are complicit in the wave of increasing corruption in government.

Journalism should no longer be an all-comers’ affair. Like lawyers and some other professionals, journalists must not only registered, they should be given physical or electronic seals to mark their stories whether online or in print. In that case, the public would easily identify a proper journalistic work and would not spend time on garbage materials which now easily pass for today as news or special reports.

There is need to restore the dignity and respect of the Nigerian journalist in terms of professionalism and security.

Efforts must be made to prevent the violent deaths of Dele Giwa Godwin Agbroko and many others.

Recent rutalizations, torture, whipping, unjust incarcerations of journalists like Abiri Jones, Otunba Olomofe, Amaechi Anakwue, Tony Ezimako, Samuel Ogundipe and many others must be caused to be investigated by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ). Court actions must also be instituted to ensure that perpetrators of violence against journalists are punished and their victims adequately compensated.

Media houses, Civil Society Organisations and the public must begin to hold memorial events for notable journalists who have been murdered in course of the practice of the profession. Some forms of practice of immortalization would continually spite killers of journalists and prevent the use of violent death as a means of silencing truth and power of true journalism.

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