As the megaphone of any government in power, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) is hardly a source of authentic news. Its near-total lack of credibility, of course, has led to the flourishing of private TV stations in the country to which viewers now turn for news. Only in April, this year, NTA falsely reported that LEADERSHIP’s Abuja office had been bombed. We chose to ignore that hideous lie, hoping that the government-owned station would swallow the humble pie and turn a new leaf. Alas, it was not to be. The NTA sank even lower last Wednesday: on its 9pm network news (which has been repeated at least thrice thereafter) it dis-informed that our representative told the Senate Committee on Ethics that our lead story of May 28 entitled “N3BN PENSION SCAM: We Bribed Senate Committee In Dollars – Suspect” was published in error.
It was clearly a hatchet job on a simmering bribery scandal involving the Senate ad-hoc panel investigating the investigators of the pension fund. The truth, however, is that, since after LEADERSHIP published the story of bribery allegations against the Senator Aloysius Etuk-led ad-hoc panel, the panel members have been clutching at straws to save their reputations. One after the other, they have threatened to sue this newspaper if it did not “retract” the story. Unfortunately for them, we have the suspect’s voice on tape.
The Senate Panel on Ethics (now investigating the allegations against the Etuk panel) invited LEADERSHIP representatives for the second time last Wednesday. At the hearing, our Senate correspondent, Mr Uchenna Awom, clearly explained why we still stood by our story: the debate at the editors’ meeting, efforts made to confirm the suspect’s testimony, opportunity given the other side (the Etuk panel members) to respond, and even an interview granted Senator Kabiru Gaya (one of the panel members) a few days after the publication of May 28. In sum, Awom told them that LEADERSHIP’s reports were always unbiased and most reliable. The representatives of other media organisations were present and reported the news as it was. Only the NTA did the exact opposite: its reporter quoted LEADERSHIP’s Awom as saying that the story was a mistake; it showed a footage of Awom speaking but muffled his voice so the listener could not hear or understand what he was saying.
Whose script is the NTA acting anyway? And how much is the TV station worth? We challenge the NTA – if it still claims to be a news medium – to broadcast the proceedings at the Senate panel’s hearing last Wednesday unedited. The media must not be used to aid and abet fraud at this time that several revelations are being made about the uncommon depth of corruption in many sectors. For our part, we remain focussed in the course of reporting the news. We are ashamed that any medium of mass communication would allow itself to be used to fool its audience. — MANAGEMENT