Punch Newspaper and the Era of Misinformation – By Samson Akindele
I have been an advocate for credible reportage of issues in the country. This was hinged on how misinformation or fake news has led to a crisis of unimaginable proportion in many climes. It, therefore, became imperative for newspaper houses to introduce that extra mechanism that would ensure that information coming from their stable, must have been thoroughly verified and the sources competent enough to hold on to.
All of the above were severally abused by Punch newspaper in one of its report on the EndSARS crisis in Lagos state that resulted in the burning of police stations as well as the encounter with gunmen in military uniform at the Lekki tollgate, where some protesters lost their lives. To say that it wasn’t a despicable story by Punch would be an understatement. It was indeed a story that was poorly written from the beginning to the end.
As a first, Punch newspapers got its sources wrong wherein, it relied and quoted sources on WhatsApp groups to narrate the events that led to the burning down of Orile Police Station by hoodlums. In the said story, it went further to give credence to the source at the detriment of professionalism and objectivity.
We know for a fact that this is the era of fake news, and the Whatsapp platform has been one medium that individuals and groups have used to spread falsehood. And to think that Punch Newspaper could rely on such platforms makes it indeed worrisome for the future of journalism in Nigeria.
What Punch Newspapers has succeeded in doing is to exhibit its bias for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari through its frequent vicious attacks on the activities of the government. Needless I mention that Punch is the only newspaper in Nigeria that addresses President Muhammadu Buhari as Major General (rtd), a move many have considered as disdainful.
I am concerned that Punch newspaper is unconcerned about the negative impact its stories could have in a polity that is already tensed. A situation where outright misinformation is put in the public space, in my opinion, is aimed at serving one purpose, which is to continue to instigate the people against the law enforcement officers that have been deployed to maintain law and order in the country as a result of the protests.
These are indeed interesting times in Nigeria, and it must be realized that should entities like Punch newspaper continue with their divisive and highly slanted news reportage against the government, Nigerian might erupt in flames , which in my opinion remains the overarching desire of Punch newspapers.
If this is not the case, how could one possibly explain a situation where a newspaper of long-standing and many years would write a full story relying on information sourced from WhatsApp group chats and Instablog9ja? This also means that journalism has gone to the dogs because of no editor worth his onion would sanction such a story where sources are not credible. But again, for Punch newspaper, this is one opportunity to wreak havoc not minding the implications of their actions.
It was indeed a gross display of a deep-rooted desire to continue to mislead the members of the general public in a manner that has never been seen before. The danger is that most members of the general public would take the misinformation hook line and sinker and after that form their opinion about the happenings in the country and the efforts of the government thus far. It is also despicable that from available information, the events that led to the burning down of Orile Police Station is far from what Punch newspaper reported.
What does this tell us? It simply tells us that news mediums such as Punch have ulterior motives and they would stop at nothing until they succeed in misleading members of the unsuspecting general public, as in this case.
In the light of this, Nigerians must be circumspect with news content from Punch newspapers because there is an overarching desire to propagate highly misleading information to the general public in furtherance of their evil intentions against the country. This is indeed a statement of the fact because when a news medium elects to peddle outright falsehood without minding whose ox is gored intentionally is an indication that every parameter of reasonability has been exceeded, and the next step is to unleash the jargons on the gullible readers.
In my opinion, this is the worst form of journalism and one that negates every aspect of the journalist creed. I doubt if the promoters of Punch newspaper still remember that journalism entails a high degree of public trust. To earn and maintain this trust, it is morally imperative for every journalist and every news medium to observe the highest professional and ethical standards. In the exercise of these duties, a journalist should always have a healthy regard for the public interest by refraining from publishing inaccurate and misleading information.
They must also be reminded that all journalists and news mediums must strive to enhance national unity and the public good. Can the Punch newspaper claim to be within conduct with regards to the above stated? The answer is a huge no, and it is indeed a shame that for a newspaper as old as Punch would elect to throw away all known principles required for credible and reliable journalism.
The promoters of Punch newspaper must also come to terms with the reality that their news medium would fast lose its readership if that is not happening already.
They must also realize that the general public has seen through their gimmick that is evidenced in their disjointed editorial style that spews hatred, misinforms the general public, castigates the government for no justifiable reasons and threw away all the tenets of credible journalism in the thrash can all in their despicable desire to rubbish whatever gains that have been made by the present administration in all spheres of our socio-economic life.
From the look of things, there is no difference between Punch newspapers and other blogs and gossip sites that aggregate half-truths to drive traffic to their site. Perhaps, Punch is now an affiliate of Intablog9ja and other blogs that does nothing but spread gossip. It is sad, and there must be retracing of steps in the overall interest of peace and tranquillity in Nigeria.
Akindele wrote from 13 JOEL Ogunnaike, Lagos.