Daily Trust newspaper said its reporter in Cross River State, Eyo Charles did nothing wrong that could have warranted Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation, to pour invective on him for asking a question at a press briefing.
The incident which happened on Thursday in Calabar was captured in a video that has gone viral on social media.
Mr Fani-Kayode, who was visibly angry, told the reporter he was “foolish” for asking him who “bankrolled” his tour of projects in Cross River and other states in the South-south.
The briefing, moderated by Governor Ben Ayade’s spokesperson, Christian Ita, was meant for the former minister to talk to the reporters about his tour.
It was attended by reporters from Vanguard, Punch, NAN, AIT, and other media houses.
“I could see from your face before you got here, how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that,” Mr Fani-Kayode kept yelling at the reporter who was still standing and apologising — “I am sorry, sir.”
“Don’t judge me by your own standards,” the former minister kept saying.
“I have been in politics since 1990. I am not one of those politicians that you think will just come…. I was taken, I have been locked up how many times by this government. I have been prosecuted, unlike most of these politicians you follow for brown envelopes!
“Don’t ever judge me by that standard. I spend, I don’t take and I am not a poor man, I have never been and will never be.”
He also threatened to report the correspondent to his publisher.
The former minister later took to Twitter to say that the reporter did not ask him a question but made an assertion which he said was “insulting”.
Media Trust Limited, the publishers of Daily Trust, issued a statement on Tuesday condemning Mr Fani-Kayode’s action.
“We stand by Charles, and commend him for his calmness during the ordeal,” said the statement which was signed by the editor-in-chief, Naziru Abubakar.
“Daily Trust reporters are responsible professionals, who uphold the tenets of journalism, as well as best practices.
“That Fani-Kayode attacks a reporter doing his job, is an indication of the chilling disregard he has towards the media, and its work in investigating and reporting on issues.
“As always, we stand in solidarity with our reporters, and will continue to fight for the rights of all journalists. After all, journalism is part of the bedrock of democracy; therefore practitioners must not be intimidated or threatened as they carry out their work,” the statement said.
“We urge the Nigeria Police to take note, that if anything happens to Charles, Daily Trust will hold Fani-Kayode responsible, especially due to the intensity of the verbal threats he issued during the shocking incident.
“The actions of Fani-Kayode are not only reprehensible, but also constitute a setback to press freedom, in a most dire form. This kind of assault raises major concerns over the safety of journalists in Nigeria.”
Nigerians have equally expressed their outrage on the verbal assault on the newspaper’s South-south correspondent.