Some supporters of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, have created a phony Facebook account, passing it off as the original PREMIUM TIMES Facebook page, in what appears a desperate move to mislead the public.
The page calls itself Premium Times News and uses the logo and other creatives and styles belonging to PREMIUM TIMES.
Through the page, the group peddles falsehoods and dishes out dangerous propaganda, circulating them widely as if they emanated from PREMIUM TIMES reporting.
At times, the group hires some blogs and websites to help it republish its falsehoods on their platforms.
The page claims its administrators operate out of 38 Forces Avenue, Old GRA, Port Harcourt, the same address as that of the Rivers state chapter of the All Progressives Congress. We later found this to be a decoy.
The page started out as a Nyesom Wike support group. The page’s permanent URL (https://www.facebook.com/nyesomwike2015/) clearly shows this.
But shortly after the elections, it changed its identity to Premium Times News, cloning the PREMIUM TIMES brand.
The administrators of the page also stole and used PREMIUM TIMES’ branding elements in a bid to deceive the public and pass down its highly biased contents as though it was produced in line with PREMIUM TIMES’ professional standard.
On Tuesday, a website, The Trent Online, circulated a concocted news item it sourced from the fake Facebook page, attributing it to PREMIUM TIMES.
The report purportedly quoted Justice Muazu Pindiga, a judge who served on the Rivers Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, as claiming that he was offered bribe, threatened by the State Security Service before he was eventually removed from the tribunal.
The story was apparently manufactured to cast aspersion on the judgment of the Rivers Tribunal which gave judgment on Saturday sacking Governor Wike and ordering a rerun in the state.
PREMIUM TIMES did not publish any such story and the Trent did not contact our paper before running a piece it sourced from the fake Facebook page.
On Wednesday, the website left an editor’s note below the fake story saying it had since determined that the Facebook page from which it sourced the report does not belong to PREMIUM TIMES.
It however failed to pull down the story, saying doing so would leave its readers encountering “an error message if they attempted to reference this report”.
Another website, Elombah.com had earlier published the same phony report. But it has since edited its post, removing PREMIUM TIMES as the source of its story.
PREMIUM TIMES Managing Editor, Musikilu Mojeed, said his organization became aware of the fake Facebook page some weeks ago.
“Our head of digital strategy immediately filed a formal report to Facebook but Facebook has failed to pull the page down since then, letting the mischief makers to continue spreading their falsehoods, using our identity,” Mr. Mojeed said.
“Any other page claiming to belong to the PREMIUM TIMES brand is a pirated copy and should be disregarded.”
When contacted on the matter, Governor Wike’s media assistant, Sam Nwakaudu, said, “This your blackmail is getting out of hand.”
He immediately terminated the call.