The Akwa Ibom State Government has come under severe criticisms by some international organisations for sponsoring a smear campaign against a PREMIUM TIMES assistant editor covering South-South region of Nigeria, Straightnews has gathered.
Mr. Cletus Ukpong, the assistant editor whose name and photograph appeared in fake stories in local newspapers in Akwa Ibom immediately PREMIUM TIMES began running his investigative series which exposed the rot in public schools in the oil-rich state.
The stories were fabricated by the state government and syndicated to newspapers with the intent to get at the journalist because of his investigative work, Straightnews learnt.
One of the fake stories, which is being circulated on the Internet, claimed that Ukpong duped his uncle, a retired professor, of some huge amount of money, which caused him to die of heart-break.
The widow of the late Professor of Economics had refuted the story against the journalist.
Some publishers were alleged to have collected N10, 000 (about U.S $28) bribe each from a known sponsored agent of the Akwa Ibom government to publish the fake stories in their papers.
One of the publishers who refused to be part of the campaign against Ukpong told PREMIUM TIMES that Essien Ndueso, a media aide to the Akwa Ibom governor, Udom Emmanuel, informed him that the funding was allegedly provided by Ephraim Inyang-eyen, the Commissioner for Works in the state.
Mr Ndueso in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES denied having a hand in the campaign against Mr Ukpong. He also denied being the publisher of Global Pilot, a local paper that is at the fore-front of publishing lies against the PREMIUM TIMES reporter.
“I have never been a publisher in my life,” he said. “I am not publishing any newspaper.”
The Commissioner for Works, Ephraim Inyang, hasn’t responded to calls and text messages sent to his telephone lines.
The Committee for Protection of Journalists (CPJ) said on Twitter, it was “deeply concerned” by the reports that the Akwa Ibom State Government was running a smear campaign against Mr Ukpong.
“The government of @MrUdomEmmanuel should let @PremiumsTimesng journalist @CletusUkpong do his job without fear of reprisal,” the group said through its Twitter handle @CPJAfrica.
“Investigative journalism is essential for good governance and democracy,” it added.
Another group, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), also condemned the attack on the reporter.
“To us in Civil Liberties Organisation, it is unfortunate that rather than commend the industry of the reporter, there is an orchestrated attempt at intimidating and preventing him from doing his legitimate duties, through organised personal attacks. And this is not acceptable to us,” the Akwa Ibom state chapter of the CLO said in a statement issued by its chairman, Ibrahim M. T.