Media Trust Limited, newspaper publishers and the Nigerian Union of Journalists have both condemned former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani Kayode, for verbally assaulting Edo Charles, the Cross River correspondent of Daily Trust, who asked the former minister who was bankrolling his tour of some states.
During a question and answer session with journalists, Fani Kayode called Charles names and boasted about saying it all on live television.
His answer to Charles’ question was, “what kind of stupid question is that? Bankrolling who? Do you know who you are talking to?”
He said, “I could see from your face before you got here how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that. Who do you think you are talking to?”
Reacting on Tuesday to the incident in a statement signed by Naziru Abubakar, the Editor-In-Chief of Daily Trust, the newspaper condemned what it called “the reprehensible actions of Femi Fani-Kayode, who in a video clip now gone viral, verbally assaulted – repeatedly – our reporter, Eyo Charles in the course of doing his job. The encounter occurred in Calabar, Cross River State, in the morning of Thursday 20, August 2020 at a hotel, during a roundtable with invited journalists.”
The paper said, “During the roundtable, Charles asked Fani-Kayode who was bankrolling his recent trips around Nigeria, to which the ex-minister responded with a raised voice, insults, and eventually a threat to inflict bodily harm on our reporter. The barrage continued for some minutes, while bewildered journalists, including our reporter, looked on.
“The video clip, also released on one of the ex-minister’s social media accounts, was conveniently edited to exclude the question asked by Charles, totally devoid of mischief, simply sought clarification and information, like good journalism should. Said editing paved the way for a social media lynch mob to rain expletives on our reporter, labelling him as ‘rude’. This could not be further away from the truth, and we stand by Charles, and commend him for his calmness during the ordeal.”
Media Trust said its reporters were responsible professionals, who uphold the tenets of journalism, as well as best practices.
It said, “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.
“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.”
Media Trust said it was a completely independent media organisation that does not pander to the whims of any individual or group, no matter how powerful or well-placed in society.
“We will continue to serve Nigerians – and indeed the world – with quality, reliable reportage, no matter whose ox is gored,” it stated.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) on its part, condemned “the gangster-like outburst by Chief Femi Fani- Kayode against the Cross River State Correspondent of the Daily Trust Newspaper, Eyo Charles who asked him a simple question he felt was embarrassing.”
Chris Isiguzo, president of NUJ, who signed the statement said, “By denigrating the journalist, Fani Kayode has exposed himself the more as an intolerant and unstable person who will not want his activities closely scrutinized by hthe media.”
He said, “It is instructive to remind the likes of Fani Kayode that it is the Constitutional right of journalist to monitor and a keep on people and institutions in power. His reaction was totally unacceptable, dishonourable and reprehensible, and we demand for retraction of his untoward, irritating and awkward utterances which negate simple decorum and civility.”