The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has cursed Journalists who published and broadcast the information he gave them in confidence with request that it should be treated as off record, regarding the Federal Government handling of the leader of Shiites, Ibrahim Elzakzaky.
The minister, in a statement by his spokesman, Tunde Ipinmisho, said that such Journalists deserve to face the journalism equivalent of a firing squad.
He recalled how he addressed a group of journalists at the presidential Villa yesterday, Wednesday, on some national issues, including that of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
The Minister said that he talked on a few things that were already public knowledge.
“However, at a point during the conversation, I told the reporters that I was talking OFF RECORD. I then went on to say, among others, that the government was spending N3.5 million monthly to feed the Shiite cleric who has been in government custody since December 2015.
“A video clip of that statement is now making the rounds on the internet. So much has been said by various commentators about my statement on the cost of feeding El-Zakzaky but those comments are beside the point.
“That that forbidden information got to the public is an indictment of the Nigerian media and puts a huge question mark on the quality of the mind of many of those who now parade themselves as journalists.
It amounts to gross professional misconduct for a journalist to go ahead and publish or broadcast information he was given in confidence and was asked to treat as off record material.
“The question is why do sources give off record information? They do so, mainly to enable the journalist understand the wider context of the issue at hand. Such knowledge, expectedly, is meant to enrich the treatment of the subject by the journalist in his report and commentary.
“Usually, if you are recording a source and he indicates at any point that he is speaking off record, all tapes and cameras are supposed to be switched off from that moment. They would only be switched on again when the source expressly says he wants to be put on record again. So who recorded the Lai Mohammed’s off record clip and who released it to the public?
“Whoever did that inflicted an unmitigated damage on journalism. It amounts to a gross betrayal of trust. Such a source will necessarily dry up. There’s no way he will ever again entrust sensitive information to the media. By such unprofessional conduct, reporters rob their audience of the rich background information that enhances the depth and quality of the news, opinions and analyses published in the print or broadcast by the electronic media.
“Importantly, unauthorized disclosure of off record materials expose the source to grave danger and in many cases could trigger instability in the society. “That of course is in addition to promoting the low esteem in which the media and their practitioners are held in certain quarters.
“Whoever leaked that off record information by Lai Mohammed deserves to face the journalism equivalent of a firing squad.”