Uche Briggs: Dear Feyi, Linda Ikeji is a Journalist – she should act like one!

by Uche Briggs

Yesterday on Twitter, I stumbled on a link to the response written by one of our very fine young men, Feyi Fawehinmi to the actor and Commissioner for Arts and Culture, Richard Mofe-Damijo. The Commissioner who is popular referred to as RMD, for want of better words, verbally attacked the popular blogger and online journalist Linda Ikeji because she posted that he moved into a mansion which cost N250m. You can read Mr. Fawehinmi’s response here

While RMD’s response, which he has a right to, is flawed in certain regards, Mr. Fawehinmi made some rather disturbing points that have led me to write this piece. His argument, for the most part of it, was couched in the didactic premise of the first amendment and the freedom of speech. However noble the framework which guides these thoughts is, it is rather disappointing that there is little logic in the points provided by the gentleman. In his bid to challenge the tyranny of governance and political leaders, he ironically confers absolute power on the Nigerian people saying that “the right to be able to say what we want about them is the one stone we have in our sling.”

For Mr. Fawehinmi, the truth or otherwise of Ms. Linda’s post is not an issue but he is quick to show that the reason for his support of the blogger is because the subject of the post is a government official. According to him: “… if she somehow offends a government official, then I know where my loyalties lie, absolutely no question.” In order words, Mr. Fawehinmi may well justify a story that may or may not be false and misleading, if it was written about a government official. At a point in his article he asserts: “Is Mr Mofe-Damijo’s house really worth N250m as she suggested on her blog? The answer, again, is that it doesn’t matter. What is more important is that she has a right to publish it.” How shocking!

While Mr. Fawehinmi notes that RMD is silly and takes himself too seriously and goes ahead to argue that Linda Ikeji is not a journalist, he apparently underestimates the followership that Ms. Linda’s blog has. The new media has created a totally different terrain and as such the lines between media ownership and readership gets increasingly blurred. Ms. Linda is not your regular citizen as you pointedly note, she is a journalist. If not, why all the noise about RMD referring to her career path as undignified in the first place? If we, relying on the logic of other revered statesmen like Tolu Ogunlesi, believe that Ms. Linda is indeed a journalist, then it only stands to reason that she is evaluated on that basis as against the basis of an ‘ordinary’ private citizen. What scares me is the levity with which he regards false reporting. He remarks: “At the very worst, she’s guilty of not double checking her facts before publishing, a crime of which she is merely 1 in 1,000,000 guilty persons in Nigeria.” It is almost as though Mr. Fawehinmi equates ubiquity with acceptability.

Since Mr. Fawehinmi has extensively discussed the first amendment in his defence of Ms. Linda, a review of the findings of the Hutchins Commission, which is responsible for the birth of the Social Responsibility Theory of the media is in order. Following agitations about the place of the media after World War II, Henry Luce, the then CEO of Time magazine, provided funding for an independent commission to discuss and make recommendations concerning the role of the press. The Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the Press was established in 1942 and released a pivotal report of its findings in 1947.
The findings of the commission have served as a guide for press and media reporting all over the world. The commission argued that it was impossible to extricate the freedom of the press from the responsibility that they hold towards society. William Hocking, a member of the commission was quoted as saying: “Inseparable from the right of the press to be free has been the right of the people to have a free press. But the public interest has advanced beyond that point; it is now the right of the people to have an adequate press” The commission highlighted that the media not only have obligations to society but that media ownership is a public trust. What is more definitive of the term ‘public trust’ than a blog with thousands of people faithfully reading and following on a daily basis?

The commission also recommends that news media should be truthful, accurate, fair, objective and relevant.  A rather apt quote from the report is: “The press is not free if those who operate it behave as though their position conferred on them the privilege of being deaf to ideas which the processes of free speech have brought to public attention.”

In all fairness, Ms. Linda is brilliant and she has built her blog by tenacity and sheer brilliance. Her blog has become akin to the public sphere where topical issues have been discussed in times past. I remember vividly how her blog gave Banky W a veritable platform to respond to the damaging article of Rueben Abati titled ‘A Nation’s Identity Crisis’ in 2009. Her dedication created relevance for the infamous ABSU rape case and ensured that it was treated with all the seriousness it deserved. These compelling points notwithstanding, Ms. Linda is a very careless reporter and her desperation to report anything and everything that can garner followership compromises her values, morals and judgement. Her recent exchange with Kola Boof and the Ndako family, who were victims in the tragic Dana Airlines crash, are cases in point. So when Mr. Feyi states that he finds it hard to believe that Ms. Ikeji overstated the figure of the house deliberately, coming from the scandals that have trailed her blog, it is not something one can put past her!

While I do not advocate the censorship of her stories by the government, it is important that we who are members of civil society call her to order. With her kind of followership (impressive I must confess), she owes it to society to publish the truth. If she publishes something that is unverified, she has to be called out on it – irrespective of whether the subject is a government official or not! Ms. Linda has been called all manner of despicable names by people her posts have offended in the past. To get all agitated about a response from Mr. Mofe-Damijo, simply because he is a government official is insane! I strongly believe that because Linda Ikeji has not been adequately apprised of the damaging effects of some of her stories, she has continued with impunity and has ‘inspired’ others in her wake (Ladun Liadi is a case in point).

It is the same journalistic recklessness, which is anchored on the faulty argument that ‘we are free to say what we want about government’ that has so permeated the reportage on Sahara Reporters such that they have lost their credibility. What should be a platform that serves as the voice of the common man in Nigeria has shamefully paraded itself as inanity on rampage, a swiftness to publish anything and everything anti-government without validating their facts. Perhaps Mr. Fawehinmi would also support the brand of reporting that Sahara Reporters endorses.

While commenting on RMD’s intention about a civil law suit, Mr. Fawehinmi explicates on the burden of proof but forgets that this also a major stumbling block for we in society. How can we prove beyond a reasonable doubt that RMD’s house was built from the largesse he acquired from government? No allegation has been made against him thus far. If he was connected with a certain misappropriation of funds, do call him out on it. But so far, so good, nothing of the nature has been done.

I strongly believe that we should hold ourselves to the very standards by which we hold government officials to. Reckless reporting is just as much a clog in the machinery of governance as ineptitude, greed and the perversion of office holders. If we descend to the abominable depths of publishing or saying anything we like about the government, we have simply become the beast we are trying so hard to fight.

So Mr Fawehinmi, spreading falsehood about government officials is no victory! It would not broaden our power base nor would it ensure that we win the battle against death and dearth. It will only damage the credibility of the few good ones among them and dampen the resolve of those preparing to enter government and make a change.

 

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Comments (32)

  1. Well said Uche. Well said. It's quite disheartening to see the way people publish and report gossip as fact on social media. I'm all for instituting libel suits and whatever else the laws allow but beyond that we must begin to hold bloggers accountable for whatever falsehoods they publish with certainty and conviction whether against government officials or private persons.

    Kudos to Uduak for the quality of her contributions to this discuss, it was certainly enlightening.

  2. If you must communicate, please be forthright. Being a journalist or no is secondary. Many thanks Uche, for your ethical values. All we want is true news.

  3. Uduak, you have made some cogent points and for your addition to this topical issue, I say thank you. I have learnt a lot from reading your response. For the last one year, I have been immersed in media research so I am aware, albeit to an extent, of the raging wars on whether ‘Internet Journalism’ should be labelled with the same stringent standards by which to hold mainstream journalists to.

    My response was drawn from personal convictions and opinion. As you rightly said, in 1947, bloggers were not part of the mix in the recommendations put forth by the Hutchins Commission but considering the influence of new media, for the courts and for us all to keep ignoring the fact that the likes of Linda aren’t journalists is dangerous. Here are my reasons:

    Linda makes money from the blog! Her blog is a multi-million naira enterprise and as every social enterprise is, they need to play the specific roles for which they exist in society. Linda, in my opinion, crossed the treshold of mere blogger a long time ago.

    I don’t know a better term to describe a media platform which hundreds of thousands have access to and dedicatedly visit for their news and information. To me and to the thousands who read Linda Ikeji, even if the appellation of ‘Journalist’ is not attached to, she holds a certain responsibility to society to publish the truth.

    The nature of online media guarantees that the speed of news dissemination is exponential. A story in Linda Ikeji may reach more people than one published in regular media. Don't call her a journalist if you must, just know that she has the ability to do more good or damage than people we regard as journalist. It looks to me that the standards should be even more stringent and not the other way round.

    Just yesterday, one blogger stoked panic by publishing erroneously that Bauchi NYSC camp had been bombed with over 50 people dead. Can you imagine what may have happened if a blogger with the strength of Linda had run the story? We can continue to hide behind the facade of libel and law suits, but truth be told, that it is legal doesn’t make it right.

    Let me be quick to mention here that in the grand scheme of things, Linda Ikeji was not the reason why I did the response. The factuality or falsehood of the story is not the point here either. Since I started reading her blog in 2009, she has had her fair share of rejoinders and rebuttals which I believe characterises the terrain. I have never lost sleep over it. The only reason why I wrote that article is because someone who should know better gave Linda Ikeji the right to publish ‘whatever’ against a politician. It only comes across to me like we are fighting discrimination by reverse discrimination. It doesn’t make sense.

    To me, bloggers with the capacity of Linda Ikeji are journalists. It would only take a while before the courts and society starts to regard them as such. They owe it to society, in the very least, to publish the truth.

    Thank you.

  4. Ist Professional Model Agent I meant…

    And yeah I need to add this, the more I visit Ynaija, d less I visit LIB 🙂

  5. A lot of us love Linda Ikeji… Heck,she was my first Pro Model agency 'Black Dove' I have bn a fan from back back back in d days… But love despite, linda is stepping on wayyyyyyyy too many toes now and treats it in a rather blase manner… In d past,it looked like fun, now tz no more funny…LIB and linda have changed, if I must say the truth… Tz sad:( Two things kip ringing in my head tho, Pride goes before a Fall… And 'kai,this tin called success'… Even I have reduced d frequency with which I used to visit LIB and interesting enough, I don't feel like m missing anytin

  6. Dear Uche,

    I saw this posted on Facebook on my news feed. I too had the opportunity to read Feyi's article. Without even needing to delve into Feyi's arguments and looking strictly at what you have written here, I believe your response misses the boat, is misleading and weak at best. Here is why:

    1. Linda Ikeji is NOT a journalist: Your entire premise rests on your categorization of Ikeji as a "journalist." You then proceed to apply 1947 "guidelines" or "recommendations" to Ikeji the so called "Journalist." This is simply unacceptable.

    First, social media is a new phenomenon, the world over.

    Second, Nigerian courts have never taken on the issue of whether bloggers are journalists so that to stick them with the same responsibilities as journalists.

    Third, in the USA, one court out of Oregon took on the issue in 2011 of whether bloggers are journalists. The court concluded that they were not and even more specifically defined how bloggers could become journalists. The ruling was a blow for bloggers. Other courts around the country have concluded the same thing that bloggers are not journalists. Can they be journalists, sure. However, for them to be, that court and many others are following suit in defining certain factors that take bloggers from just persons posting on blogs to journalists.

    What are the factors to look for?

    1. Education in journalism – Indeed, if you say Ikeji is a journalist, what happens to the many Nigerians who enrolled in their local school of Journalism, studied journalism or do work in a journalistic capacity? What are they?

    2. Affiliation with a "newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system." – Clearly, Ikeji does not fit this.

    3. Adherence to Journalistic Standards – clearly we would not even have this topic to discuss if Ikeji had the exact value of RMD's home investigated, confirmed and declared.

    4. Journalist keeps notes of conversations and interviews conducted.

    5. Journalist has evidence of a mutual understanding or an agreement between the persons written about and the journalists sources.

    6. Gathers information from both sides before publishing a story.

    Since Nigerian courts are yet to deal with this issue, clearly we look to see what other countries are doing in the 21st century to compare. Back in 1947, there was no anticipation of bloggers and blogs. Now they are here. There is a paradigm shift in journalism as a whole and there is the tension in trying to classify what bloggers really are.

    Now we get into, if Ikeji is NOT a journalist but a blogger, does that mean she can just write anything, anytime? No. That is why there are libel laws. I analyzed this case and dealt with the potential libel issue and you may visit the link if you choose below. But, suffice it to say Ikeji saying the amount of RMD's home is "said to be about 250Million Naira" is NOT a reporting of false facts. It is speculative and not definitive and I fail to see how it is reporting of false facts, although I understand RMD is especially sensitive as a political figure. By the way, RMD's tweets state "My N250million home." So he never quite refutes but only appears to confirm the speculation.

    You come down hard on bloggers like Ikeji. You certainly are entitled to that view. The only issue is that you couch such bloggers as journalists and then attempt to put a high journalistic standard on them. It does not fit.

    When your premise is challenged, your argument crumbles. Linda Ikeji is NOT a journalist and your conclusion that she is, does not make her one, neither does it require the due diligence you attempt to place on her. However, as indicated, any prudent person blogging should be familiar with libel laws and avoid false reports to avoid legal liability.

    Kind regards,
    Uduak
    http://africamusiclaw.com/2012/07/nollywood-icon-

    1. I personally think dis issue abt linda ikeji just makes her more popular if there Is one thing dat needs to be said is dat she knows how 2 market her self I think she is good at what she does … LOL why complain abt wat she blogged abt RMD's mansion

  7. Dear Uche,

    I saw this posted on Facebook on my news feed. I too had the opportunity to read Feyi's article. Without even needing to delve into Feyi's arguments and looking strictly at what you have written here, I believe your response misses the boat, is misleading and weak at best. Here is why:

    1. Linda Ikeji is NOT a journalist: Your entire premise rests on your categorization of Ikeji as a "journalist." You then proceed to apply 1947 "guidelines" or "recommendations" to Ikeji the so called "Journalist." This is simply unacceptable.

    First, social media is a new phenomenon, the world over.

    Second, Nigerian courts have never taken on the issue of whether bloggers are journalists so that to stick them with the same responsibilities as journalists.

    Third, in the USA, one court out of Oregon took on the issue in 2011 of whether bloggers are journalists. The court concluded that they were not and even more specifically defined how bloggers could become journalists. The ruling was a blow for bloggers. Other courts around the country have concluded the same thing that bloggers are not journalists. Can they be journalists, sure. However, for them to be, that court and many others are following suit in defining certain factors that take bloggers from just persons posting on blogs to journalists.

    What are the factors to look for?

    1. Education in journalism – Indeed, if you say Ikeji is a journalist, what happens to the many Nigerians who enrolled in their local school of Journalism, studied journalism or do work in a journalistic capacity? What are they?

    2. Affiliation with a "newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system." – Clearly, Ikeji does not fit this.

    3. Adherence to Journalistic Standards – clearly we would not even have this topic to discuss if Ikeji had the exact value of RMD's home investigated, confirmed and declared.

    4. Journalist keeps notes of conversations and interviews conducted.

    5. Journalist has evidence of a mutual understanding or an agreement between the persons written about and the journalists sources.

    6. Gathers information from both sides before publishing a story.

    Since Nigerian courts are yet to deal with this issue, clearly we look to see what other countries are doing in the 21st century to compare. Back in 1947, there was no anticipation of bloggers and blogs. Now they are here. There is a paradigm shift in journalism as a whole and there is the tension in trying to classify what bloggers really are.

    Now we get into, if Ikeji is NOT a journalist but a blogger, does that mean she can just write anything, anytime? No. That is why there are libel laws. I analyzed this case and dealt with the potential libel issue and you may visit the link if you choose below. But, suffice it to say Ikeji saying the amount of RMD's home is "said to be about 250Million Naira" is NOT a reporting of false facts. It is speculative and not definitive and I fail to see how it is reporting of false facts, although I understand RMD is especially sensitive as a political figure. By the way, RMD's tweets state "My N250million home." So he never quite refutes but only appears to confirm the speculation.

    You come down hard on bloggers like Ikeji. You certainly are entitled to that view. The only issue is that you couch such bloggers as journalists and then attempt to put a high journalistic standard on them. It does not fit.

    When your premise is challenged, your argument crumbles. Linda Ikeji is NOT a journalist and your conclusion that she is, does not make her one, neither does it require the due diligence you attempt to place on her. However, as indicated, any prudent person blogging should be familiar with libel laws and avoid false reports to avoid legal liability.

    Kind regards,
    Uduak
    http://africamusiclaw.com/2012/07/nollywood-icon-

  8. Very Myopic comment….Linda Ikeji Votron

  9. am tired of yellow journalism.linda stop publishing unverified facts please,stop making poeple feel bad and please rmd has every right to cross at linda.nigerians diss and slander too much and it wrong.very wrong!

  10. Don't know why this story is still news!!! RMD sure has some skeleton in his cupboard because I can't seem to understand why he is making so much noise about nothing. Linda never accused you of using govt. Funds for your building so why are you so scared??? Give us a break n rest pleasEeeeee

  11. Gege God bless u for dis comment of urs,u just spoke my mind…RMD shuld stfu apparently ders some atom of truth in dis report,I wonder y dey keep insulting linda abeg its her job….sue her instead don't make some stupid and arrogant comment mr commisioner *raises eyebrow*

  12. The penultimate paragraph is the most powerful.

    Journalism, writing, has to be based on truth, facts, findings and evidence. Sometimes, a writer may not be able to get everything in all certainty. Then while writing, stay within the limits and probability you can safely assert.

    Great article!

  13. linda is a journalist no doubt.but she has not in this case done anything to warrant such responses.uche says we should call her to order really? who if you feel she has wronged you please file your papers at the apppropraite courts and air your grievances.she said he bought a house so? rmd is a public person and at such should expect that he would be in the public eye.he was a special adviser and that makes him even more of a public servant.there is such a thing as slander, malice, and seriously there is no evidence of such in this instance so what is the hula baloo? i read on nigerian websites daily were the president jonathan is insulted, ridiculed and i am yet to see anyone talk of slander or calling our newspapers to order. a so called newspaper or website allegedlly stated that RMD had a second wife now i dint hear anyone make a case about that and that was wrong that was malicious yet it wasnt news. i would end with this quotation ……. ” WHERE A WRITER EXCEEDS THE BOUNDS THERE SHOULD BE A RESORT TO THE LAW OF LIBEL WERE THE PLAINTIFF MUST OF NECESSITY PUT HIS CHARACTER AND REPUTATION IN ISSUE, CRITICISM IS INDISPENSABLE IN A FREE SOCIETY…….. olaratuwa J.C.A in Arthur Nwankwo V State

  14. Una done see money finish…hissss.

  15. With all due repsect, only “he-thee-hurts” will refer to this logical & elaborate rejoinder boring. I could Gossip, sensationalism & the trade in run-him-down syndrome along with the(jobless) people who are addicted to it won’t but find character assasination as “news” To each man his own.

  16. From his tweets, it was clear his beef was with the value Ms Ikeji had placed on his home although he didnt quite tell us what the supposed real value is (probably recognising that that would be a lose lose battle for him). It is my personal opinion that the Commissioner is rather silly and takes himself too seriously. 10 years ago, acting in Nigeria was looked down upon and actors were very easily referred to as ‘their type’. I am unclear as to what Mr Mofe-Damijo is benchmarking as a ‘dignified career path’ compared to Ms Ikeji’s gossip blogging – his acting which brought him fame and fortune or his current government job?

  17. I am sure if this RMD story was shared by another blogger this whole drama won’t unfold. Guess its the price she has to pay for her success.

  18. Well said Briggs.

    Exactly echoed my thoughts on Feyi’s blog. I am moved to think that he has a personal axe to grind with RMD.

  19. 1. Linda said she heard RMD bought a house for 250 million.

    2. Did she make that statment with malicious intent? I dont think so.

    3. If she had rang RMD to confirm the story would he have co-operated? I dont think so.

    4. Should she therefore not publish a story unless the subject co-operates? That would be bad for free speech.

    5. Did Feyi say RMD could not sue? No he didn’t. All he said was take her to court instead of threatening her from the bully pulpit.

    1. Most bloggers or so called Journalists sadly are not aware of the social responsibility theory of the press or the gate keeping theory.Jjournalism is suppose to be a noble profession, not every body that has bully pulpit should be assigned the name journalist. In journalism there is something called facts.
      The act of exempting one from reprimand give silly excuses is part of the reason why we are stucked on the same spot as a country.
      Accusing RMD of being a “bully” is so far from it, he has every right to call her to order. No wonder why in a population of over 150,000 million inhabitants, we hardly sell 500,000 copies of newspaper daily. It is sad where are the Ajose of those days who did have a University degree but wrote better than those with Phd, the Peter Enahoro’s, the Olusegun Osoba’s? I WONDERRRR
      And to “funny people” who refer to them selves as activists, I laugh when I see or read about them, no disrespect to the real activist who served and are still serving Nigeria with all their strenght and might. we know the true activists and not blue brain activists. to all the blue brain activists God knows the address of your house.

  20. After reading Feyi’s article last night, l almost puked myself to sleep. This comes as a tranquilizer. Very well put!!

  21. Exactly, can we get a one sentence summary of this essay, lol! Yeah Linda has been stepping on a lot of toes this year from Toke, Susan peters, Dana crash victim brother’s wedding, now RMD. O ga ooo.

  22. Put very simply…..

  23. Boring!!!

    Silence would have been better.

  24. Word to Bloggers: Just because you own a blog doesn't mean you should post anything to acquire followers/more followers whatever the case is…..

  25. +15,000

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail