Imo Broadcasting Corporation [IBC] Orient FM indefinitely suspended one of its journalists, Vivian Ottih, who is also the chairperson of the state’s chapter of Nigeria’s Association of Women Journalists for protesting non-payment of salary for three months by the organization on Facebook.
Why it matters: Poor welfare is a familiar problem for most Nigerian journalists. Media organizations in the country sometimes go months without paying reporters. For some media owners, non-payment of salaries is deliberate as they expect recruited journalists to trade media access and news coverage in exchange for cash or other benefits. This ethical breach has allowed the rich and powerful to control media narratives and escape scrutiny.
What they are saying: In the query served to Vivian Ottih as a basis for her indefinite suspension, the acting DG of the corporation, Osuchukwu S.O, claimed that her Facebook request ‘ridiculed the Imo state government in the eyes of the public’ and had the sole aim of ‘sabotaging’ it.
Meanwhile, to defend itself against mounting criticism, the Imo State Government has blamed the management of the Imo Broadcasting Corporation for the non-payment. Per what the Commissioner of Information, Declan Emelumba, told Premium Times, the state government couldn’t process payment for the staff of the organization for three months because directives to send Bank Verification Number and other financial details were not complied with.
The other side: The Nigeria Association of Women Journalists and the International Press Council have jointly kicked against the suspension and called for its reversal. The IPC called it ‘unjust and inhuman’ and a violation of rights.
Bottom line: The fury against Ottih by Orient FM’s management is misguided. Their failure to meet financial obligations for months amid a pandemic that has weakened the Naira and spiked prices of food and other essential items, is troubling. But in trying to protect its image and that of the Imo government, the station is squashing free speech and harassing a labor leader.