The Nigerian Federal Ministry of Information and Culture has posted today (March 10, 2016) on its official website a statement referring to accusations that the Voice of America (VOA) Hausa Service news coverage is skewed in favor of Boko Haram terrorists. The Nigerian government’s statement urges VOA to correct the perception of biased reporting.
Voice of America Africa Division and Hausa Service managers on a visit to Nigeria have denied allegations of skewed reporting, calling them “unsubstantiated.” A Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) official called them “pretty absurd.”
A recent statement issued by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in the U.S. Congress referred to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency which manages VOA, as “This Broken Agency … Losing the Info War to ISIS & Putin.”
The Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who met this week with VOA managers, has appealed to VOA to ensure a more balanced coverage of the Boko Haram insurgency. VOA is funded by U.S. taxpayers through congressional appropriations. The Obama administration has requested $777.8 million for the BBG in the FY2017 federal budget. BBG Director of Development Joan Mower, who also met with Alhaji Lai Mohammed in Abudja on Tuesday, described his criticism of the Voice of America as “pretty absurd.”
Joan Mower wrote in a comment on her Facebook page which also shows a photo of her pointing a finger at the Nigerian Government Minister:
“Yea I was telling him it was pretty absurd to criticize VOAs Boko Haram coverage! We’ve been out front on the whole story. Blame the messenger again. Nice guy though.”
So far there has been no official reaction from the BBG headquarters in Washington to the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Information and Culture statement on VOA Hausa coverage of Boko Haram.
Nigerian media has reported widely on Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s statement.
Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper has also published an open letter to President Obama from a person identified as Audu Gagara, in which the author accuses the VOA Hausa Service of lacking professionalism, tact and objectivity. The author stated that “in the last three to four years, during the time when BH [Boko Haram] vehemence was at its highest and severest, VOA Hausa clearly appeared to celebrate the ‘exploits’ of the insurgents.” “In fact, its reporting of events seemed to exaggerate BH’s ‘successes’ and to downplay our military’s accomplishments,” the author of the open letter to President Obama added.
SEE: VOA HAUSA: OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, Daily Trust, March 5, 2016
According to the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Information and Culture statement, VOA’s Negussi Mengesha said “he was disappointed by the allegation contained in an article published in the Daily Trust of Saturday, March 5th, however expressed the readiness of VOA to correct the perception.”
BBC Hausa Service, which has almost twice as many Facebook page Likes (1,016,363 on March 10, 2016) than Voice of America (VOA) Hausa Service (547,934 Facebook page Likes), has not been a target of such public questioning by Nigerian government officials, and neither has DW Hausa Service (413,242 Facebook page Likes).
NIGERIAN FEDERAL MINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has appealed to the Voice of America (VOA) to ensure a more balanced coverage of the Boko Haram insurgency by its Hausa Service.
The Minister made the appeal in Abuja on Tuesday while receiving a delegation from the African Division of the VOA, led by its Director, Mr. Negussie Mengesha.
He noted that there had been allegation that the Hausa Service of the VOA’s reporting of the war
is being skewed in favour of the insurgents, and urged the international broadcaster to correct the perception.
“The Voice of America is very popular in Nigeria, and for many years, the Voice of America has been seen as the veritable voice of cooperation, partnership and friendship to Nigeria. I can say that in the Northern part of Nigeria in particular, the Voice of America is listened to very religiously.
“However, I must say that in recent times, there have been lots of complaints about the Voice of America from the same part. People have not been too happy about the way the insurgency has been reported in recent times,” Alhaji Mohammed said.
He noted, however, that in spite of the allegations, the VOA remains the favourite channel ”for many of our brothers and sisters in the North”, particularly during the time of the insurgency, which significantly affected the capacity of the local broadcasters to reach out to the people.
“When I read the article (on the VOA coverage of Boko Haram), I said it could mean two things. One, that the Voice of America is still very relevant in Nigeria and, secondly, the perception out there is that the audience probably wants more of balancing of stories than anything,” the Minister said.
He commended the VOA for its various capacity building programmes for journalists in the country and stressed the need to have an exchange programme between the American broadcasting organization and Nigeria’s public broadcasters.
Alhaji Mohammed also lauded the VOA for expanding its reach through the Social Media, saying: “Social Media today is so pervasive. It might not be believed by all but the penetration is probably deeper than that of the conventional media. It is instantaneous, viral and it has no boundary. I must commend you for your effort to move from radio to a multi-media platform,” he said.
Responding, Mr. Mengesha denied the allegation that the coverage of the Boko Haram insurgency by the VOA Hausa Service is slanted in favour of the insurgents.
“I think the Hausa Service is the real enemy of Boko Haram. The entire Northern Nigeria has been affected by this crazy madness and in fact we took one of our reporters and kept him for six weeks in Northern Nigeria to have first hand investigative reports and he did an excellent job,” he said.
Mr. Mengesha, who said he was disappointed by the allegation contained in an article published in the Daily Trust of Saturday, March 5th, however expressed the readiness of VOA to correct the perception.
For his part, the Managing Editor, Hausa Service of the VOA, Mr. Aliyu Mustapha, dismissed the allegation of biased coverage of the insurgency by the Service as reflected in the said article as ”unsubstantiated”, and assured that the VOA will continue to partner with Nigeria to build on the successes it had recorded in the anti-terror campaign.
Also at the occasion, Ms. Joan Mower, Director, Development and International Media Training for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, commended the Nigerian media for the enviable role it played towards the eradication of polio in the country, adding that journalists from other countries would soon visit Nigeria to understudy the role of the country’s media in that regard
SA to Hon Minister of Information and Culture
March 8th 2016