Tuesday 2 January 2007

Godwin Agbroko - Journalist murdered in Nigeria

Another Journalist Murdered

I had veered off into the wild for news when I happened upon ThisDayOnline – a useful and sometimes informed outlet for news from Nigeria.

As it happened, there was the unfortunate and rather bizarre brutal murder of the Chairman of the editorial board of that news organ on the 22nd of December 2006, something I had not picked up from all the other blogs I frequent.

It is of great concern if like Dele Giwa of NewsWatch who was mortally wounded on receipt of a letter bomb in 1986 that another news man should come to his end being killed by possibly some hired hoodlums.

There is the suggestion that he might have been attacked by armed robbers, however, the likelihood is that he was onto something that someone influential did not want exposed.

Journalism in young democracies

It makes journalism a very precarious business considering the advent of a nascent democracy in Nigeria requires the freedom of the press and the freedom to information as well as access to information that threatens to undermine the function and progress of democracy – corruption being a principal impediment.

Russia is another example of where journalists live in great peril when they come across news that the government or oligarchs would like suppressed, in a democracy that seems to losing a positive focus, 2 were killed in 2006, and many are incarcerated.

The evolution of the scoop

There is no doubt that editors of major and seemingly impartial news outlets would gain access to volatile material and information, which they might not publish immediately as they investigate and try to gather a compelling and useful story.

As they develop the plots, there are people who would prefer that the truth of those issues are not exposed, where rather than having the good sense not being engaged in suspect and nefarious activities they would prefer to do things with impunity and eliminate any function or person that might expose their “shameful” deeds.

These rotten people do need to be exposed, deposed and prosecuted to the limits of the law, it would mean that exposés that editors come against cannot be used as exclusives that we are used to in the West, there has to be a league of trusted editors with a secure and vibrant network of shared values and information.

Here, it would mean all editors have to be eliminated, all almost impossible task – if a story that can cause ructions hits the investigation trail and is about to cause a serious upheaval that would upend these influential criminals.

This is the kind of evolution required of journalism in countries like Nigeria and partnership which helps safeguard the freedom of the press, the freedom to publish and the freedom to do so with the fear of loss of life, property or face.

His stewardship

Mr. Godwin Agbroko, whose demise has generated a rash of condolences – enough of the condolences and get with tracking down the culprits – did seem to lead a group of dedicated editorial staff though I have much disdain for his attention to the work of his proofreaders, a legacy he now seems to have suffered that they did not discover that his name was misspelled as Agboko in one of the articles, an issue I raised about sloppy journalism when they wrote a piece about Margaret Ekpo.

This is an area of journalistic expertise that needs good resources and strict supervision, it detracts from the quality of that work if we have to read and understand words from context only because they are meaningless due to the lack of proofreading.

The layout of web articles are also in need of some radical improvement, the paragraphs are not properly delineate, the lengthy pieces are literally impossible to read after the first new lines.

However, this should not detract from that fact that a journalist has been murdered and much more should be done to ensure that the culprits are brought to book first and then these crimes should not thrive in Nigeria, this highlights an area in need of serious development – forensics.


The journalist death toll of 2006

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