Nigerian Army has slammed online media platform – Sahara Reporters for publishing what it described as unverifiable military stories, accusing it of smear campaign against the army.
The Nigeria Army made this accusation in a post on its verifiable facebook account, while expressing sadness that in a bid to be seen as first to break news, some media houses have discarded the ethics of their noble profession through hasty publication of unverified information.
“The attention of the Nigerian Army (NA) has once again been drawn to another false publication by an online newspaper (Sahara Reporters), alleging that the bodies of our gallant soldiers and members of Civilian Joint Task Force who lost their lives in the unfortunate Metele attack are yet to be evacuated.”
“The general public is to please note that the information is despicably false and a calculated attempt to spread fake news aimed at discrediting and undermining the NA in the discharge of its constitutional roles”.
“For the avoidance of doubt, immediately after the attack, reinforcement was sent to the location. Thereafter, a special search and rescue team led by a senior military officer was constituted and equally dispatched. The team worked tirelessly, searching all the nooks and crannies of the general area and have evacuated all the gallant troops that paid the supreme price in defence of their fatherland”.
Recall that Sahara Reporters had earlier this week reported that the corpses of dozens of soldiers and civilian Joint Task force (JTF) members killed by Boko Haram in Metele, Borno State, have still not been evacuated.
The report allegedly revealed that more than 120 soldiers, including five officers, were killed and about 200 others were still missing after Boko Haram insurgents attacked a military base in Metele, Mobar local government area, on the outskirts of Lake Chad Basin, adding that troops sent to evacuate the dead soldiers two days later were also attacked.
While quoting a soldier who escaped from the follow-up attack, the online medium said that the evacuation team suffered high casualty as they fled, abandoning their operational vehicles at Metele then trekking 50 kilometers before getting to cross Kauwa, in Kukawa local government area.
“It is devastating. More than 120 killed, including civilian JTF members who used to assist our men,” he told SaharaReporters.
“We have recovered close to 120 corpses. The terrorists came in large numbers to attack them from every angle. They tactically backed out; many are yet to return from the troops who went on the evacuation mission”.
The Nigerian Army in the social media post once again reiterated the need for correct and balanced reportage, especially when reporting issues regarding military operations.
They advised all print and electronic (online) newspapers as well as social media forum and blogs to double check their information before publishing, warning that publishing false, sensational news is inimical to national security and could also cause panic, bitterness and disunity among the citizenry.
Meanwhile, another online newspaper, Premium Times lamented that both the Nigerian Army and the Defence Headquarters did not return requests seeking comments on the Metele attacks, while the spokesperson for the Nigerian Air Force did not also return messages seeking comments.
However,other Defence correspondents gave credence to the lamentation of Premium Times, saying that correct and balanced reportage can only be made possible if Public Relation and Information managers of the Armed Forces cooperate with the media by clarifying issues when approached.
They advised the military to always respond timely to inquiries from journalists to avoid speculation and dissemination of fake news, insisting that journalists are often racing against time.
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