Barely ten months after being accused of blaspheming the Holy Bible, Punch newspapers has come under ethical headwinds following allegation of suppressing a rejoinder by one of the nation’s finest female legal icons against an offensive publication.
In the correspondence under reference, Chief (Mrs) Folake Solanke expressed strong exception to a particular piece written by Punch’s columnist, Ms. Abimbola Adelakun, on April 2 entitled, ‘No God is Punishing us with Covid-19’, describing it not as only distasteful but also libelous of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, including her good self.
The highly esteemed octogenarian, who is the first female to be decorated a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), rose in stout defense of a junior colleague, a fellow SAN and presently Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN who Ms. Adelakun had portrayed in “disgusting” lights.
Chief Solanke copied Punch Newspapers, the columnist as well as some people.
We sighted a copy of Chief Solanke’s two-paged rejoinder and it reads in parts:
“That quoted disparaging reference to the TITLE (SAN) is pure and unmitigated insult. No, most certainly NOT, the title is not a tag by any definition. Rather, it was designed as a decorative and prestigious rank bestowed upon a lawyer in recognition of his or her outstanding performance, after years of professional training, a decade or decades of arduous and impressive legal practice, and superior and compelling advocacy in the law courts and elsewhere. Indeed, the preferment is the apex for a practicing lawyer.”
In concluding her statement, 88-year-old Solanke pointedly demanded, “With all due respect, I enter a CAVEAT: This REBUTTAL should be published VERBATIM in The Punch. It is already edited. Thank you.”
However, in a petition, a social advocacy group named Justice Network of Nigeria (JNN) accused Punch Newspapers of suppressing the publication of Chief Solanke’s Right of Reply by shirking the obligation to not just publish but give equal prominence to her rejoinder in line with global best practices.
“Rather, our investigations revealed that Ms. Adelakun went behind to plead with Chief Solanke to forgive her and forget, admitting that she committed an error. But we strongly condemn this shameful antic of attacking defenseless people in the public with the foulest of language and going behind to beg them secretly,” said JNN in the statement signed by its Executive Director, Mr. Ayo Awojobi.
“We find this unbecoming of a newspaper like Punch that prides itself as the champion of ethical journalism. This is certainly inconsistent with the shining legacy of high integrity bequeathed by Punch’s founder, late Chief Olu Aboderin, and its past administrator, Chief Ogunsola,” JNN added.
Concerted efforts to get the reaction of either Punch newspapers or Ms. Adelakun were unsuccessful before the deadline for this publication.
Interestingly, Ms. Adelakun was also at the center of a blasphemous article last year for which Punch tendered a public apology aside from sacking two editors and a cartoonist.
In the said article, a cartoon of someone peeing on the Bible was used to illustrate an article by Ms. Adelakun.
Following public outrage at the publication, the newspaper sacked its Daily Editor, Martin Ayankola.
Also asked to resign was the Saturday Editor, Olabisi Deji-Folutile over the same issue