The Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal — Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, said yesterday that it attacked Thisday newspaper's offices in Abuja and Kaduna to send a strong message to the media that it would no longer condone reports misrepresenting it in the press, or blaming it for acts it knows nothing about.
Abul Qaqa, spokesperson for the sect told Premium Times, in an exclusive interview, that his organisation was fed up with the deliberate misinformation being peddled about it in the Nigerian and foreign media.
"We have repeatedly cautioned reporters and media houses to be professional and objective in their reports. This is a war between us and the Government of Nigeria; unfortunately the media have not been objective and fair in their report of the ongoing war, they chose to take side," Mr. Qaqa said.
He identified three instances where he claimed his group was deliberately misrepresented by the media. The first, according to him, was the rumour of his capture by the Nigerian intelligence agencies.
"Some reporters are aware that I am Abul Qaqa, they know my voice through our long interactions and they also know the role of Abu Darda who heads the enlightenment committee and sometimes facilitates interviews; yet they (media) go by the unsubstantiated view of government that Abul Qaqa is in custody and I am the new spokesman or number two," he said.
Premium Times had continuously reported that Abul Qaqa was not arrested contrary to reports and that it was Abu Darda, another member, that was arrested.
The second misrepresentation, according to Mr. Qaqa, was the reporting on the kidnappings of foreigners in the Northern part of Nigeria.
"Another issue was the recent kidnappings in the north; we were clear with our position as a group during a teleconference with reporters but we were shocked the next day when newspaper headlines added a lot of things which I never said during that interview."
The third example, Mr. Abul Qaqa said, is the mistranslation of the video the group posted recently.
"Another example is the recent video posted on YouTube by our Imam; I challenge every Nigerian to watch that video again. There is no place our imam either said he will crush President Jonathan or issued an ultimatum to the government in Nigeria; but nearly all papers carried very wrong and mischievous headlines."
When asked why ThisDay appeared specifically chosen for the attack, Mr. Qaqa said ThisDay's "sins" are more grievous.
"It is not only THISDAY that has been engaged in negative media campaign, fictional stories and constantly promoting fake stories by the JTF to give an impression that they are making headway against us yet there is no time the media investigated further as an objective and responsible bystander in this war.
"But the sins of THISDAY are more," he said.
"They once insulted the Prophet Mohammed in 2001 and we have not forgotten. They recently said our Imam executed me which is false. Here I am speaking to you, I am alive and healthy."
Expect more media attacks
The group's spokesman further warned of more attacks on the media.
"We have just started this new campaign against the media and we will not stop here, we will hit the media hard since they have refused to listen to our plea for them to be fair in their reportage," he said.
Mr. Abul Qaqa also said his group would give further information on biases by the media.
"In the coming days we will give details and instances where the media have not been fair to us and why we are going to attack them as well."
Media should be neutral
"The media in Nigeria are not a problem to us if they will do their job professionally without taking sides," Mr. Abul Qaqa said.
"But each time we say something, it is either changed or downplayed. But when our enemy says something even without logical proof, it is blown out of proportion."
"We have repeatedly asked some reporters to retract some stories or even give us the right of reply but none of these requests were given to us."