Sir Joseph Ari, Director General, Industrial Training Fund. (Credit: Facebook, ITF)

By Marie-Therese Nanlong

Jos – The Middle Belt Journalists Forum, (MBJF) has debunked what it terms a fabricated online media report which falsely claimed that it accused the Director-General of the Industrial Training Fund, ITF, Sir Joseph Ari, of sponsoring Christian militias in Jos axis to foment religious crisis in the Middle Belt region.”

The fake story, which has as its headline: “ITF DG Joseph Ari on fire for allegedly sponsoring Christian militias to foment a religious crisis,” was published by the African Examiner, and lifted by Opera News, both online platforms.

Reacting to the report, the MBJF, in a statement on Wednesday, signed by its President, Jonathan Ipaa, and Secretary General, Oikeke Igado-Kure, respectively, debunked the report, and described it as “smacking of deliberate mischief and malicious intention to misinform and mislead gullible members of the public to achieve the purpose of precipitating bad blood and crisis.”

The MBJF further said that the allegation was mere “a figment of the malicious and mischievous imagination of the faceless reporter and described it as distressing, unfortunate, completely repugnant to natural justice,” and threatened to file a lawsuit against the author of the report and its publishers if they failed to produce documentary evidence of their claims or tender an unreserved apology.

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The duo stated, “As a matter of fact, there has never been a time that MBJF raised such an allegation against the ITF DG and no media organization has ever reported such an allegation, which implies that it is a figment of the malicious and mischievous imagination of the fabricator of the said story and should be treated as such

“For the avoidance of doubt, at no time has the MBJF, either in its public engagement or in private, ever accused the ITF DG, a highly respected journalist, who has over the years also paid his dues in the noble profession of any misdemeanor as published in the report.

“The faceless, cowardly writer, who is doing a hatchet job for his paymasters, did it poorly and ended up exposing his glaring professional deficiencies, that is if he/she is truly a journalist. Dragging the MBJF into such fabricated falsehood is, to say the least very damaging and nauseating mischief that is taken too far and comes with legal consequences because the freedom of expression is not a license to irresponsibly fabricate malicious falsehood against others.

“We, therefore, challenge the author and publishers of the story to produce documentary evidence of their claims within the next 48 hours or tender an unreserved apology to us on their platforms and one other media or be ready for a date with us in court on charges of defamation.”