Resign if you can’t defend the truth, cleric tells journalists

Journalists at the church thanksgiving service, Ibesikpo-Asutan, Akwa Ibom
Journalists at the church thanksgiving service, Ibesikpo-Asutan, Akwa Ibom

A cleric in Akwa Ibom has called on Nigerian journalists to resign from the profession if they are not ready to stand on the side of the truth and the people.

The cleric said the struggle for the soul of the Nigerian nation has entered “a critical stage” and that being a journalist at this moment in the nation’s history was akin to being a soldier in the battlefront.

“Any journalist who is not ready to defend the truth should resign now from the profession,” Okon Okon, an apostle with The Apostolic Church of Nigeria, said on Sunday, while delivering a sermon at a branch of the church in Ibesikpo-Asutan Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State.

Journalists, under the aegis of the Consolidated Chapel, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council, were at the church for a thanksgiving service to mark the chapel’s 2019 press week celebration.

“It’s odd and unacceptable for journalists to feel good, happy, and be smiling when things are going bad and people are dying.

“It’s very wrong and also unacceptable when things around us are negative, and yet you have the media portray the situation as being positive,” Mr Okon said.

Mr Okon, who kept punctuating his sermon with “may God help us”, said journalism is a “noble” profession and, therefore, “journalists must be noble in their attitude and actions”.

“Journalists in Nigeria must stay united and speak with one voice for the sake of the people. It is detrimental to society for some journalists to pursue money and selfish interests when things are falling apart in the nation.

“Being a Nigerian journalist now is like being at the war front,” the cleric said.

The chairman of the Consolidated Chapel, Sammy Charles, said journalists were in the church to thank God for preserving their lives in the course of their job, especially during the recent general elections in Nigeria.

“We are here to dedicate ourselves anew and to declare that none of us shall get hurt or die in the course of our duty as journalists,” Mr Charles said.

Patrick Albert, Nene Affia, and Amos Etuk, the chairman, vice chairman, and secretary of the NUJ, Akwa Ibom State Council, respectively were present at the thanksgiving service. They all presented goodwill messages to the Consolidated Chapel.

The chapel, earlier on Friday, organised a dinner /award night as part of the press week celebration.

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A keynote lecture on access to information in Akwa Ibom was delivered at the Friday event by the Premium Times regional editor, South-South, Cletus Ukpong.

Mr Ukpong told the audience that no person, including journalists, in Akwa Ibom is known to have invoked the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011 in the state, except a Lagos-based lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, who also runs a law chambers in Uyo.

“The officials of the Akwa Ibom state government are so afraid of making information available to the public, even when such information would be for the good of the government if it is made available to the public.

“Imagine looking for photos of state government projects, and you are told by officials in the ministry that you should apply for it before they could give you – to help them publicise their successes!

“Imagine pleading with the ministry of education to help you with the list of public secondary schools in Uyo, or the lists of newly renovated schools in the state, and an official would be telling you to apply for it!

“This has been my personal experience.

“Meanwhile, these are harmless information that should be made available, and updated from time to time, on government websites,” Mr Ukpong said.

Continuing, Mr Ukpong said, “On several occasions, we have had journalists in the state search the internet for the governor’s speeches, whereas things like these should be available on government’s websites.

“I suggest that the information managers of Governor Udom Emmanuel set up an online press centre, where they could upload the governor’s speeches, photographs, and other press-related materials to aid journalists in their coverage of the governor’s activities.

“Such website would be very useful to a journalist like myself who has never been invited to any programme organised by the Government House, Uyo, nor received a single press statement from the Government House.”

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