Saturday 28 December 2013

Opinion: Please don't call the President a liar

I cry for our journalism
Over the last few weeks, I have concentrated on managing the blogs posted to commemorate my Decade of Blogging. It does not mean there was nothing else to write about.
Now, I touch on a topic that I have covered in various ways pertaining to journalism in Nigeria, from poor copy editing, through faulty terminologies to plagiarism.
A newspaper reported yesterday that the President ‘lied’ when referencing how his off-the-cuff Christmas speech was related to the public.
The responsibility of the press
The substance of the issue is beside the point, but this goes down to one simple scenario, if the press is to inform, engage, investigate, collaborate and serve as a guardian of democracy giving voice to the people, it has to get more sophisticated with the responsibility it has to disseminate the news.
The President in terms is somewhat a divisive figure who excites passionate sycophancy to intemperate antagonism, a welcome dartboard with a big bull’s-eye for criticism that his coterie of advisors and acolytes have perfected the art of being under siege.
He is not perfect, but that does not make him a devil, and much as many may not like him and individually some might excoriate and ridicule him, the press should hold themselves to a higher standard of engagement.
In many cases, the only way we would ever get to hear the President’s views on any issue would be through newspapers that have found a way to building a reputation for cutting-edge reportage and the use of language with the finesse of nuance and the ability to convey truth and fact as objectivity as possible.
Tact and leeway in reportage
More pertinent, they should give authorities when presented with certain facts that leeway to reconsider or restate their views as each engagement sheds more light of the backstory of any issue being debated on or reported on.
To call the President a liar is seriously antagonistic and aggressively reckless, even if the accuser is in the right. It gives the President no options apart from a descent to opprobrium, disgrace and dishonour. As the person of the President is impugned the office of the President is brought into disrepute and then what respect can we accord our leadership if they are under the cosh of dishonourable conduct.
At worst, the press should have suggested the President misstated the facts or might have been wrongly briefly, in which case, the office of the President might have had the option with review what the President said and retract the reported ‘lie’ with necessarily losing face.
An unfortunate step
To confront the President with the accusation that he lied is as good as asking for his scalp, the press might have won the battle for that setting but would have lost the bigger war, the war to make the press have the necessary in-roads into the system to ensure the public are adequately informed.
However, if the press does think that resorting to ambush tactics and mob justice of the pen with a public journalistic lynching is the best approach to things, much more is expected of juvenile delinquents and this unfortunate descent into disagreeable communication would simply polarise rather than serve the greater interests of Nigeria.
Indeed, certain of the press need to act tough and appear impermeable to obsequiousness to the powerful, and separate themselves from the bought up personnel who are instruments of patronage and the wielding of influence for propaganda ends.
It does not excuse the need to tact, for finesse, for nuance, for the understated and the effective use of language in analogy or metaphor to convey serious matters without a thuggish disposition.
Retract for him to restate
I would suggest that the press retract their accusation that the President lied and restate their case with a bit of deference and allowance, it would give the President some leeway either to reinforce or restate, there evidence provided would then be weighed to determine with the truth is.
I think the word I am looking for is diplomacy and the press can use a bit of diplomatic language and still get the job done without looking like a bull set lose in a china shop. That I have to write this blog is unfortunate, but very necessary.

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