November 20th, 2012
Reuters yesterday withdrew a story it published on Monday in which it reported on a video showing Nigerian troops shooting unarmed captives in Maiduguri, Borno State.
The news agency said it was withdrawing the story because of questions raised about its date and location, but did not apologize, or identify who had raised those questions.
The withdrawal, which is highly unusual of the powerful agency, followed a swift response by the Joint Task Force (JTF), which denied the authenticity of the material, recalling that it has “severally debunked similar accusations in the past and has made it absolutely clear that there is no established case of extra judicial killings, arrest or detention” by the JTF in the city.
“We are professionally guided by a mandate and rules of engagement in the conduct of our operations,” it said in a press statement signed by Lt. Colonel Sagir Musa, its spokesman.
“In our code of conduct and standing instructions, no JTF personnel is allowed to carry video or still camera and cell phones while on operations.”
Reviewing the video and pointing out inconsistencies, the Task Force noted that the media faces a complicated task to strike the right balance between its duty to inform the public and the danger of becoming tools in the hands of terrorists.
It reiterated its appeal to journalists to be very careful in broadcasting, printing and distributing of externally-gathered materials that have not been further authenticated.
“Therefore, the purported film should be seen and regarded as another vicious Boko Haram Terrorists Propaganda against the JTF.
“As a professional and disciplined organization, we are mindful of the public concerns about our operations and will certainly investigate allegations and where necessary make our findings public. The Task Force wishes to once again remind the public including the media that it does not condone or encourage indiscipline and anyone found culpable will always be appropriately sanctioned.”
Full text of the JTF statement: JTF Response-Re: Soldier Filmed Colleagues Killing Captives In Maiduguri
The attention of the Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation RESTORE ORDER has been drawn to some publications in some national dailies particularly in the Punch newspaper of Monday 12 November, 2012 Captioned “Soldier Filmed Colleagues Killing Captives in Maiduguri” and wishes to state that the JTF has severally debunked similar accusations in the past and has made it absolutely clear that there is no established case of extra judicial killings, arrest or detention by the JTF in Maiduguri. We are professionally guided by a mandate and rules of engagement in the conduct of our operations. In our code of conduct and standing instructions, no JTF personnel is allowed to carry video or still camera and cell phones while on operations. It is therefore curious to note that the purported film referred to, circulated and reported by Reuter’s news agency and blindly lifted by some national newspapers is allegedly filmed by a JTF soldier on operation. This film is stage managed and the allegation is baseless, terrorist oriented, spurious and bunkum. I watched the film released, printed and scrutinized the 3 pictures used as the basis for the allegations and discovered that;
a. Picture 1 was used as the cover page of the Amnesty International report that was released on 8 November, 2012. The Task Force is worried that the same picture is again being used by Reuters News Agency that reported the picture was captured 2 weeks ago. Additionally, the bodies deposited in the pictures cannot be substantiated to be Boko Haram or those of innocent civilians.
b. Picture 2 had earlier been used to maliciously tarnish the image of a Task Force which operated in the middle belt sometimes in 2009. It is curious to notice that the same picture is still been used in November 2012 against the JTF. It is worthy to note that the reporter alleged that a JTF soldier recorded the event and gave them the film. This is found to be completely false as the person who did the so called recording cannot be a soldier as purported as a civilian with a camera can be obviously seen in the background of the picture. This picture has no bearing with the JTF operations and supposed secrecy or else, why should a civilian be in the background taken pictures and yet Reuters claimed the film and pictures were secretly released by a soldier.
c. Picture 3 is about the vehicle allegedly used by JTF to carry corpses. A look at the vehicle in the film revealed that the JTF has no such vehicle in its inventory. The JTF vehicles are either Ford or Toyota Hilux pick up vehicles marked in Defence Headquarters or Nigerian Army colours. Own JTF vehicles are distinctly marked JTF PATROL OR OP FLUSH. This same photograph was still used in 2009 against a Task Force then operating in the middle belt and at that time the JTF Operation RESTORE ORDER had not been established for it was only just established in 2011.
d. In the news commentary, it was alleged that the JTF soldiers carried dozens of dead bodies. The Task Force wishes to educate Reuters that JTF troops do not carry dead bodies of civilians as reported and that in such eventualities where civilians are casualties, it is the responsibility of the civil police. The JTF troops only carry the corpses of dead or injured colleagues.
The media should note that it faces a complicated task to strike the right balance between their duty to inform the public and the danger of becoming tools in the hands of terrorists. Here in Maiduguri, the Task Force has since discovered that images are been exploited by Boko Haram Terrorists and their collaborators to enhance their propaganda impact. Also images are viciously created, made raw materials, terrorists had become producers and the media has no control over the situation given that anyone could maliciously create film or publish images and text on the internet to enhance propaganda effect. Social media presents challenges so much that the media is been exploited, so also is the authenticity, reliability and motives of sources. Thus, the JTF once again appeals to the media to be very careful in broadcasting, printing and in distributing of materials gathered outside their own professional means which has not been further authenticated. Therefore, the purported film should be seen and regarded as another vicious Boko Haram Terrorists Propaganda against the JTF. As a professional and disciplined organization, we are mindful of the public concerns about our operations and will certainly investigate allegations and where necessary make our findings public. The Task Force wishes to once again remind the public including the media that it does not condone or encourage indiscipline and anyone found culpable will always be appropriately sanctioned. It is pertinent to once again draw the attention of the media to the fact that the Boko Haram Terrorists have killed several civilians, Indians, Chinese and security personnel as well as destroyed properties worth millions of naira without the press drawing the needed attention to their terrorists’ atrocities and silent assassination ongoing in the area. I want to strongly state at this point that there are concerted efforts including damaging and negative press propaganda by the Boko Haram Terrorists, their financiers and sympathizers to smear the image of the JTF, so as to discourage it from actualizing its mandate. The JTF would never be deferred by this negative propaganda as the Task Force would continue to conduct its set mandate which is to RESTORE Law and Order in Borno state. The under listed cell phone numbers are the JTF Hot Lines in case of emergency and media inquisition. These numbers are operational 24/7;