Group summons journalist, asks him to reveal source of Facebook post

The journalist, Mr Joseph Atainyang
The journalist, Mr Joseph Atainyang

A socio-cultural group in Akwa Ibom has asked a journalist in the state to reveal the source of the information in his article or be ready to face “disciplinary action”.

The Oro Union, an influential ethnic-based union in Akwa Ibom, said the journalist, Joseph Atainyang, published a report on Facebook accusing its members of receiving bribe from unnamed Akwa Ibom government officials to scuttle a planned protest by the youth against the alleged neglect of the Oro ethnic nationality in the state.

The Oro Union advocates for the economic and political interest of the Oro ethnic nationality. The journalist, Mr Atainyang, is a member of the ethnic nationality.

The union said the journalist must come forward to name the giver and receiver of the alleged bribe.

“The Oron Union President General has summoned Comrade Joseph Atainyang to make himself available in the conference Hall of the Union’s Secretariat on Wednesday 29th January, 2020 at 10 a.m. for necessary interrogation so as to vehemently substantiate his claim to the Oro people,” the group said Tuesday in a statement from its spokesperson, Asuquo Esifa.

“Failure to adhere to this call will attract a disciplinary action which shall serve as deterrent to future rumour mongers who may wish to drag the good image of Oro nation in the mud.”

PREMIUM TIMES contacted the spokesperson of the group and asked him if he did not think they went too far by summoning a journalist to appear before the union for expressing his opinion.

“He is a member of the union,” Mr Esifa said.

PREMIUM TIMES told him that the journalist said he is not a member of the union.

“Let him forget about it then. If he says he is not a member, he doesn’t owe us anything, he can go ahead and lie and write so many stupid things he likes about his people,” Mr Esifa responded.

“We have taken note of this,” he said.

“Everybody from Oro is a member by birth. If he says he is not a member of Oro Union, I will communicate this to the appropriate quarters.”

Mr Esifa said Mr Atainyang has been close to the President-General of Oro Union, Etim Ante, and meet regularly with him but did not care to call Mr Ante to verify his information before going public with it.

Mr Atainyang said he was preparing a reply to the Oro Union but that he would not honour their summon.

“I am not a registered member of Oro Union. If I attend a meeting of Oro Union, I do so as a journalist just to cover their programme,” he said.

The journalist admitted being close to Mr Ante but said his article was not about the president-general of the group.

“If it’s about the president, I would have approached him. The information I had, had nothing to do with the president, the only thing is that the president is one of the people who went to the place (the venue of the meeting where the alleged bribe was given).

“To the best of my knowledge, the information I published is correct,” he said.

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David Augustine, a journalist and a lawyer in Uyo, said what was happening between Mr Atainyang and the Oro Union is “subtle censorship”.

“This one, they are just using the ethnic origin of the journalist to blackmail him into acquiescence.

“But the journalist owes his community, even his family, a duty to ensure that whatever is hidden is brought to the fore,” said Mr Augustine who publishes Uyo-based Weekly Insight newspaper.

“The resort to intimidation is unfortunate. As a journalist, you owe the society, and not where you come from. The society looks up to you to reshape society.

“For me, the Oro Union has no reason to summon a journalist to come and tell them the source of a story. Any person that has been infringed in any way should resort to court, they don’t have that powers to ask a journalist to come that they are going to sanction him because of the story he wrote,” he said.

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