An online new medium, NewsWireNGR, has retracted and deleted from its platforms, news websites and the various social media pages a publication of Daily Independent alleging that Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Sheikh Isa Pantami, is placed on terror watch-list for alleged ties with Boko Haram Leader Muhammad Yusuf.
NewsWireNGR said it has launched an independent audit to evaluate the story and found that there was no direct attribution by the said United States government’s agency. In his response, Pantami acknowledged NewsWireNGR retraction and apologies, but said investigative journalism requires the investigation before publishing, not after.
Pantami is absolutely right. In fact, many people are calling on the minister to institute a legal action to serve as a deterrent to purveyors of fake news and defamation of character.
Media houses should and must employ a deep undercover method of investigative journalism to have unearthed any information.
NewsWireNGR and other media houses that republished the Daily Independent story didn’t employ the right and ethical procedures for investigative journalism. Professional media houses always employ the best practices in investigative journalism.
Investigative journalism is vital for safeguarding democracy and freedom of speech. It is an important component of a just society. The common people rely on investigative journalists for accurate, factual information with solid evidence to keep them abreast of discreet in-workings of politicians, public officers and the society at large.
NewsWireNGR and other platforms that republished the Daily Independent story were unprofessional, they just ‘copy and paste’ a story that failed to present any evidence and facts. In fact, they didn’t attempt to get through Pantami to ensure fairness and to help them in further checks by comparing it with other independent sources.
An investigative journalist once said: “Investigative journalism is a fact-minding enterprise and it’s not enough to make claims. You have to present evidence for any claim and be transparent about the process, that is, show how you obtained the evidence. I’m talking about documents/records linking the subjects to the said properties and how you obtained the evidence. Did you get from the authorities? Did a source tells you? Did you do some checks linking the properties to offshore firms held by the people you accused?”
This type of false story on Pantami wasn’t the first. On July 3, 2020, Sahara Reporters, an online news outlet, published a report supposedly, to expose properties owned by the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami. And, probably, it may not be the last of such a false story. Public office holders from the north are paying the price of the region’s wealthy people and leadership poor investment in the media business.