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There are strong signals that some desperate private and/or public sector people have resorted, in recent time, to exploiting the seeming cash crunch in the media industry to disseminate misleading information through willing accomplices.

The Publicity Secretary of the Movement for a New Nigeria (MOFANN), an association clamouring for a new Nigeria through good governance and responsible citizenry, Mrs. Funmilola Oluwagbemiga, on Tuesday, called for an urgent reform of the media industry, particularly the online media, in the interest of economic growth.

According to MOFANN, in a country, where false information is circulated without regulations or sanctions, wrong decisions that could negatively affect investments will be taken. Investors rely on information to thrive.

The statement said some media practitioners had also resorted to blackmailing to make ends meet because of the weak regulatory environment, adding that this had been a major source of embarrasment for professionals who had spent years building their integrity in the media industry.

It said, “There have been cases of threats to state governments, ministers and heads of agencies to ‘settle’ or have their stories published even when the allegations the culprits claim to have are most times, false.

“When there are allegations before the EFCC or relevant law enforcemnt agencies, it becomes the duty of such agencies to investigate and come up with a position on the matter. If there is no conviction, they remain allegations.”

The statement gave an example of a disclaimer against some journalists by the Borno State Government, which alleged that the journalists had tried to extort money, by forcing the government to place adverts to the tune of N50m in their magazine or have their ‘dirty’ stories published.

It stated, “Our attention has also been brought to a plot by some individuals to distract the leadership of the Industrial Training Fund with the same allegations that have been in the public domain for about four months now. It was first published twice in the same online platform within a space of two weeks. The same story, nothing added, was published again this afternoon, on another platform, about six weeks after. Is this journalism? Are there no new stories?

“We put a call through to the public affairs section of the ITF and were reliably informed that the publishers of the online story had approached officials of the ITF for money, saying that some people had paid them N5million to post the story online. We were told they asked for money, which the agency refused to give. If a journalist has a story, must he also tell the target that he was paid to do damage? Is this journalism? The officials have recordings of all that ensued. This informed this urgent press statement. Please save this noble profession.”

The association said it had followed keenly the activities of the Fund since the Director-General, Dr. Juliet Onaeko, assumed leadership and was satisfied with the level of achievements so far.

“We want to urge the ITF DG not to be distracted. We have followed keenly her achievements in the areas of staff development, sound policy implementation, cost cutting measures as well as innovative ideas that have, for the first time, ensured that youths are not only being trained, but are also put to work. The Nigeria Employers Consultative Association said recently that 70 per cent of trainees had been put to work,” it added, calling on the relevant authorities to find out fraudsters parading themselves as journalists and bring them to book.

“We are tired of reading junk,” the association concluded.

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