The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has cautioned its members against allowing themselves to be used as pawns by persons or groups seeking to settle personal or political scores with others.
NUJ issued the caution after receiving reports about the activities of civil society organizations who in collaboration with journalists are fond of intimidating private and public office holders for personal gains.
In a statement by its acting National Secretary, Akorede Opeyemi, the union asked its members to desist from such activities to avoid the legal consequences that may arise.
According to Opeyemi, the groups are in the habit of going after officials in Ministries, Departments and Agencies and executives of oil and gas companies.
He said, “While we applaud the commitment of credible groups to expose corruption and demand accountability, we are not unmindful of the antics of a few for personal gains.
“Only recently, an individual who claimed to be a journalist was fingered in the siege at the home of a Supreme Court Justice.
“As a Union committed to press freedom and the protection of journalists, we urge our colleagues to be guided by the Code of Ethics of the NUJ and be wary of individuals and entities who we have gathered are doctoring statements of accounts and have photographed buildings, commercial and residential, of some public officials as being corrupt either for personal gains or vendetta.
“If any group feels strongly and are certain of their facts, they should petition the various anti-graft agencies and even approach the courts for an Order of Mandumus to compel the government to act.”
Opeyemi further cautioned journalists that of “the legal consequences for acts that bother on criminal defamation and libel, and the willingness of these individuals and groups to use the journalist as the expendable in the event of legal challenge.”
He added, “It behooves on the Union to remind each and every one of us that “liability for libelous publications is not limited to the original author or publisher thereof, but it also extends to and includes all those who, out of sheer ignorance, mischief or malice, or all, cause any libelous publication to be repeated, reposted or re-published, either personally or through any platform for which they have control.
“It is in this regard that the Union will not expend energy and scarce resources on matters that ordinarily should have been guarded against.
“However, the Union will not shirk away from any case(s) of witch-hunt or harassment and intimidation of any of its members doing their legitimate jobs.”