The Kogi State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo on Thursday told the Federal High Court in Yenagoa that a Bayelsa-based blogger, Saint Meinpamo intentionally published fake information against the state government to cause hate.
Fanwo had during cross examination as a prosecution witness also told the court that Meinpamo betrayed journalistic ethics by publishing unverified information against the state government.
The accused person had in May published on his blog site that the Kogi State Government spent N7 billion Naira on a collapsed structure which he called a COVID-19 isolation centre.
The state government however denied the allegation, saying the fallen tent was not meant to be an isolation centre for COVID-19 but Lassa fever, saying it cost less than N2million Naira.
According the Commissioner, the online publisher had intentionally portrayed the Kogi government to be corrupt and insensitive.
He stated that the online publication was not only but also a deliberate attempt to generated ill will, unnecessary anxiety, public incitement, needless hate and tension in the State.
His words: “I discovered a publication on www.naijalivetv.com on May 2, 2020, crediting a new story to the Governor of Kogi State saying he built a fallen Covid-19 Isolation Centre for 7 billion naira.
“To us, the report was not only false, but a deliberate incitement against the Government and a big embarrassment to the Government and people of Kogi State and myself as the Chief Information Officer of the Government.
“By the publication, the defendant caused ill will towards the State Government and public tension. It portrayed our Government as being corrupt, insensitive and irresponsible. And he never verified the authenticity of the report before going to press to discredit the State Government with the false information.
“The fallen tent wasn’t even meant for CoviD-19 cases. It was built for the isolation of Lassa Fever patients and it cost the Government less than 2 million naira.
“As a journalist myself, I am abundantly aware that our profession has ethics. The publisher betrayed the ethical standard of our profession by failing to verify the information before publication”.
When asked after the court session if there is any possibility of out-of -court settlement, the Information Commissioner said the case is expected to serve as a standard for other journalists who violate their own ethics and publish falsehood.
“We are stating our case. He will state his own. I wont say anything here that might jeopardise justice and fairness. It is up to the court to determine who was right and who was wrong”, he said.
He advised journalists to adhere to the ethics of the profession in order to help in building an egalitarian society.