Nigerian editors rejecting Boko Haram stories with religious angle

by - 23rd May 2014

JOURNALISTS in Nigeria filing reports about Boko Haram suspect a conspiracy to keep religion out of the headlines.

They told Lapido that their editors face the sack if Boko Haram is reported in the context of Christian persecution.

Amadi Cyril, a freelance reporter in Abuja said: 'Every story I have written raising the angle that the Boko Haram Islamic sect is waging a war against the church has been rejected by media organisations I have reported for. I was told to rewrite my story and that Boko Haram is just a terrorist sect not representing Muslims.'

'Even if we report the religious attacks against Christians our editors will throw out the story. It will not be aired because the Government will fire our general manager,’ a reporter with the national television network station in Maiduguri told Lapido.

Suppressed

Yemi Kosoko, a reporter with a local network, said: ‘We have reported and made it clear that most of the girls abducted were Christians and Chibok is a Christian community, however this does not seem to rub off on anyone, the importance and implication is deliberately suppressed.’

The religious significance of the attacks is being downplayed by the state, which is distancing the terrorist group from Islam.

‘These people are worse than lunatics,’ Alhaji Kashim Shetima, the Borno state governor said in an interview with Lapido.  ‘They are madmen who have violated every tenet of Islam and so they are not Muslims carrying out any Jihad. They do not stand for Islam.’

This official line contradicts statements made on You Tube by Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, where he’s stated that the fifteen Muslim girls taken were simply ‘casualties of war because we do not abduct Muslims,’ and that ‘the injunction to all Muslims is to wage war against all infidels, all Christians… the instruction is to slaughter and kill all of you.’

'The girls are not Muslims but infidel Christians,' Shekau goes on to say. The Muslim girl in his video was 'adulterated by the school' and he therefore had to 'purify' her and get her to be properly educated in the Qur’an and get her married.

Problematic

'It does not really matter whether the government sees Boko Haram as a legitimately Islamic group or not,’ says Zacharias Pieri, an expert on Islamist movements at the University of South Florida. ‘What matters is how Boko Haram perceives itself and whether it has the ability to convince others. If you look at its leader's discourse it is clear that they attempt to find a justification for every action they take within an Islamic framework. Boko Haram's interpretation of Islam is central to every action they take. As such I would say that Boko Haram has to be viewed within this framework, even if it is a very problematic version of Islam.'