Arrest of a ‘journalist’

Journalism, no doubt, belongs to that class of noble professions. The reason, perhaps, is that the men with the midget tapes, microphones and pens are seen to be powerful and of the fourth estate of the realm.

They hold a microphone or midget tape in your face and, irrespective of the socio-economic status, you begin to shiver and quiver. A confirmation of the fact that the world still sees men of the pen profession as opinion moulders, builders and sometimes destroyers.

But of late, of huge concern is the rise in the ranks of those who eke out a living in journalism without really belonging to the profession. And, unfortunately, the activities of these people have begun to tell on the ‘authentic’ ones.

I had set out earlier in the day to cover the inauguration of a microfinance bank somewhere around Olowu, in Ikeja. I had no inkling of the embarrassment I was to face later at the venue of the event.

It was an inauguration, not a press briefing, so, we were supposed to operate from the background; unnoticed.

Surprisingly, immediately the anchor of the programme introduced the dignitaries, journalists were asked to introduce themselves with emphasis on the organisation they represented. I never had problem with that since I was representing the oldest surviving newspaper in the country and, if anything, it was an opportunity to market myself and the organisation.

But something in me kept on saying something was wrong somewhere, which was soon to be revealed.

We were actually asked to introduce ourselves because the organisers had discovered a ‘fake’ journalist in our midst and they were ready to give him a public disgrace.

A fake had just introduced himself as the representative of a media organisation, whose publisher was once lord of the manor in one of the oil-rich states in the country, when the real correspondent stood up and introduced himself.

The impostor was immediately taken out of the venue and questioned behind the scene. Four identity cards each belonging to different organisations were found on him. As he was being whisked away in handcuffs, he kept pleading and attributing his action to the state of the nation’s economy.

Interestingly, while some of my colleagues and the organisers felt a sense of triumph that one of those bringing the noble profession into disrepute had been uncovered and sanctioned, what I felt within me was a huge embarrassment, an assault on journalism.