Premium Times publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi has admitted in a statement on Friday that the online newspaper was in error with respect to its comment attributed to the Miyetti Allah group leader in the North-central, Danladi Ciroma, in the wake of the killings in Plateau state by suspected herdsmen.
Ciroma told the medium that he never said the attacks were retaliatory.
Below is a statement issued by Premium Times, apologisng for misleading Nigerians.
Tracing the error
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.
Accountability And Remediation
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.
PREMIUM TIMES publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi, admitted in a meeting with newsroom senior editors yesterday that the paper was substantially in error with respect to its reporting on Mr. Ciroma’s role in the conflict in Jos. “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.”
The controversial attribution to Miyetti Allah comes as the media were facing allegations of bias in its coverage of the ongoing killings in the country.
In February, presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu disparaged the media for its coverage of the killings. PREMIUM TIMES largely restrains from using potentially harmful stereotypes or slurs save for where authoritative references have linked an incident to a group pattern.