The federal government on Friday said that it was insulting, unfair and “grossly” disrespectful to refer to President Muhammadu Buhari as a murderer over the killings by suspected herdsmen in Benue and other parts of the country.
Acknowledging the fundamental right of freedom of expression by citizens, the presidency berated slanderous statements that are capable of causing public dissent and therefore warned that people should watch the impact of statements they alter
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, while briefing State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said that people should learn to express their grievances and criticisms without resorting to name calling.
The presidential aide said, “those beating the gongs of war and fanning the embers of discord must remember what prevailed in Rwanda before the genocide of the early 90s, during which hundreds of thousands of lives were lost as a result of consistent hate speech spewing from that country’s media.
“We must learn to express our grievances and criticisms without resorting to gutter language or to name calling, and the press has a responsibility to maintain that, even if it means calling their columnists to order.
“Calling him (Buhari) a murderer is not only grossly disrespectful but unfair, especially when the President has written a letter to the Senate detailing his efforts to quell the crisis in Benue State.
“The President had also dispatched the Minister of Interior and the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation in the aftermath of the unfortunate incident, and receiving a direct briefing from the IG the following day.”
Garba also knocked some media organisations for their reports on the recent killings, describing them as unfortunate.
He cited a recent column published in a national newspaper alleging that President Muhammadu Buhari was the first to endorse the Benue massacre on New Year Day.
Shehu said the same columnist described the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali as “a dyed-in-the-wool Fulani irredentist who places trade over and above human life” and that the writer went further to invite Nigerians to arm themselves and fight one another.
He also frowned at the headline of one of the said newspaper’s edition, titled ‘Expect More Blood in Benue…’
He described some media reports on the recent Benue killings lacking respect for journalism ethics and press laws.
He appealed to members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm to show more decorum and professionalism in the reportage of security and humanitarian situation in the country.