The Police And Dangers of Shallow Journalism, By Johnson Chinedu

…the professional thing for a journalist to do would be to painstakingly map the situation and send out through a report, both a warning and an alarm to members of the public. What we have instead is a cut and nail cocktail of hearsay…

There’s a very sacred creed in journalism that does not escape anyone who practices the profession by the letter. It is: “when in doubt, leave out.” Similarly, in the realm of legal principle and practice, it is not permitted for one to probate and reprobate at the same time. Both principles were savagely assaulted in a rather miserable non-story created and presented to unsuspecting members of the public by the Lagos based sentimental tabloid, Saturday Sun.

In the report, “Money for Posting Racket Rocks Police,” published on Saturday, June 3, 2017, the tabloid, typical of unserious street pop-culture publications, cast professional journalism in very awful light. The report’s first claim to investigation of the particulars of the case it reported on, fell flat on its face. The reported kingpin of an alleged scandal was located in an address in Lagos; his movements were monitored, as well as his house, by this tabloid’s “investigating” team. This was to the point that the “investigation” unearthed bags of money being moved into the residence of this fellow, who was also the subject of its “investigation”, at the end of which the simple matter of the name of the individual in question still remained a mystery. What manner of journalism is that?

To crown the shoddy display by the tabloid, it was unable to establish a background profile or possibly a flash image of this person. Expectedly, the report and its sponsors would undermine even the very spurious narrative they were bent on creating by admitting a self-evident truth about the inspector general of police not being a money conscious individual. As is prevalent now, scam artists have repeatedly passed off names of highly placed public officials with a view to defrauding those not vigilant enough. One of such criminally minded members of the public was recently arrested by the police for seeking to use the name of Femi Adesina, senior special adviser to the president on Media, with a view to duping the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Clearly, what this tabloid did was tantamount to, for instance, putting Mr. Adesina on media and public trial for a crime he only got to know about after the perpetrator had been arrested.

There are instances where such scam artists have targeted influential Nigerians with baits of strategic appointments for which they usually claimed to represent the first lady, or indeed the chief of staff in the presidency. If a similar scam process had been mounted by these criminal elements with the Office of the inspector general as its target, the professional thing for a journalist to do would be to painstakingly map the situation and send out through a report, both a warning and an alarm to members of the public. What we have instead is a cut and nail cocktail of hearsay in the tabloid publication. In effect, the paper swept aside the values of fair hearing central to legal and journalism practice, proceeding to smear innocent officials for alleged criminality they know nothing about.

Over time, the law enforcement agencies, such as the police and the Directorate of State Services (DSS), have had to alert members of the public about such syndicates, some of which have been regularly smashed. To the credit of the IG of police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, the police has been refocused on addressing insecurity and fighting criminality. To the point, it must be acknowledged, that no kidnap case in Nigeria has escaped unresolved by the police. The process of solving it might take a bit of time, but it had always inevitably been solved since Idris took over as IG of police. Another clear milestone of his stewardship is the identification and deployment of competent and professional hands in strategic fronts to implement his renewed efforts to combat crimes across the country. It is also evident that the strategy of the current IG of proactive measures and intelligence-led policing is yielding life saving results. One example of this proactive policing is the most recent feat of the arrest of militants who had concluded plans to attack five banks in the commercial hub of West Africa, Lagos.

What the IG is also focusing on right now in the Police Force is a retooling and retraining process that will benefit the entire Force and inspire appropriate leadership values and professional excellence in members of the Force. There is already a roadmap for professionalising the core competences of officers and men within the Force with the aim of making the Nigeria Police professionally competitive internationally.

As the police public relations officer, Mr. Jimoh Moshood noted recently, “it is unfair for anybody to say that and nobody is being paid, for the selection of Squadron Commander. It is unfounded and anybody making such allegation should let us know who he is paying the money to and who asked for such money from him or her because Squadron Commanders? Are posted based on their competence and their capability and ability to carry out the specific operations and other responsibilities expected of them.”

Surely, the reaction by the leadership of the police above punctured the cover story by The Sun. It also, clearly, points to the missing “W”s and one “H” that is crucial in any credible report in journalism.

Johnson Chinedu writes from Asaba, Delta State.

PremiumTimes