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The Nigerian Union Of Journalist (NUJ) has described the outburst of former Minister of Aviation Femi Fani-Kayode (FFK) aimed at a Daily Trust journalist as “totally reprehensible”.

The NUJ said this in a press statement signed by its President, Chris Isiguzo.

The statement reads in part: “The Nigeria Union of Journalists- NUJ condemns 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 which he felt was embarrassing.

“In his reaction, Kayode assaulted the journalist and threatened him for daring to ask such a question. By denigrating the journalist, Fani Kayode has exposed himself the more as an intolerant and unstable person who will not want his activities closely scrutinised by the Media.

“It is instructive to remind the likes of Fani Kayode that it is the Constitutional right of Journalists to monitor and keep a check on people and institutions in power. By delving into politics and holding political office, Fani Kayode is very conversant with the watchdog role of the media.

“For him to have embarked on an assessment of projects in some states, even though we are yet to be told under what platform, he is doing so, it is proper for the media to hold him to account for his actions and decisions.

“His reaction was totally unacceptable, dishonourable and reprehensible and we demand a retraction of his untoward, irritating and awkward utterances which negate simple decorum and civility.

“We are more shocked that the same Kayode who had in recent times, used his social media handles to call leaders to account is at the same time attacking a Journalist for a simple demand for him to unmask those behind his nationwide tour. He had already visited six states. This is indeed, terribly disappointing.”

What Happened?

A viral video clip emerged online of an angry Femi Fani-Kayode lambasting a Daily Trust journalist, Eyo Charles for asking a question he felt was inappropriate. Apparently Fani-Kayode was not happy with the question which led to the outburst. The press conference was in Calabar, Cross Rivers state.

He verbally attacked the journalist and threatened to report him to his publisher.

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FFK explains his side of the story

Femi Fani-Kayode who is very active on Twitter has tweeted his own side of the story. He wrote on Twitter alongside the video of the outburst that the journalist did not ask a question but made an assertion. He added that NUJ should have waited to hear his own side of the story. He further denied sending his security men to threaten the reporter.

During my tour of the South and after a long and successful press conference in Calabar, Cross Rivers state, a journalist put up his hand for the last question and said, “Well we do not know who is bankrolling you”. This is not a question but an assertion and an insult.

“And if this insulting ASSERTION were made before Trump or OBJ I know how they would have reacted. Above is my response & I have no apology to offer for it. The young man apologised to me during the press conference & sent his apologies to me after the conference.

“I have accepted his apologies & moved on. I have always had respect for journalists & always will. Those of them that know me or worked with or for me over the last 30 years can attest to that. However, there is a distinction between asking a question & offering an insult.

“This is all the more so when it is clear that the assertion was sponsored and engineered by my political enemies who wanted to use the young man to insult and embarrass me and question my integrity. Well, they got more than they bargained for.

“I repeat this was not a question but an assertion and a gratuitous insult and I will not accept that from any man born of woman. Thank you.

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“ADDENDUM: Permit me to add the following. I have taken note of the report by Daily Trust on the incident. The content is false. I didn’t send any of my security men to threaten their reporter. I only reprimanded him for a premeditated plan to embarrass me & he apologised thereafter. That was all.

“This is not a battle between me and the esteemed Nigerian journalists who respect the ethics of the noble profession. I have always been and will always be a friend to journalists and a champion of freedom of speech. What I will not accept are brazen insults from an individual in the name of journalism.

“The assertion or assumption that I am being bankrolled by anyone is deeply insulting. Finally to the NUJ I say u have got me completely wrong. It would have been better if you had heard my own side of the story and established who was behind this whole incident and attempt to embarrass me, who paid for it and how much they paid before going to press. Nevertheless, I still hold you in high esteem.

Daily Trust stands by Eyo Charles

Daily Trust has also released a statement signed by on the viral video in Fani-Kayode verbally attacked its reporter, Eyo Charles. And clearly, the Newspaper stood by Charles. The statement was signed by the Newspaper’s Executive Director/Editor-in-Chief, Naziru Mikailu Abubakar.

The statement reads in part: “The management of Media Trust Limited, publishers of Daily Trust and other titles, would like to condemn 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, on the morning of Thursday 20, August 2020 at a hotel, during a roundtable with invited journalists.

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“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.

“Daily Trust reporters are responsible professionals, who uphold the tenets of journalism, as well as best practices. 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 the direst form. This kind of assault raises major concerns over the safety of journalists in Nigeria.

“Daily Trust is 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.”

 

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