By Elizabeth Ogunbamowo
Claim: Several Facebook posts claimed Minister Isa Ali Pantami was arrested over an attempt to supply terrorists with logistics after a misleading headline by The Independent newspaper.
On Thursday, May 19, the Directorate of Defence Media Operation (DMO) issued a press statement highlighting military operations from April 28 to the stated period.
As part of the military onslaught against criminalities and terrorism in the country, the statement which was issued by Bernard Onyeuko, the Director of the DMO disclosed that one Mallam Modu Pantami was arrested on May 17.
A newspaper outlet in Nigeria, the Independent, reported the incident crafting the headline, “Pantami Arrested Over Attempt To Supply Terrorists With Logistics”.
At a glance, the headline suggested that Nigeria’s Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Pantami was arrested for attempting to supply weapons to terrorists.
The newspaper could be said to have purposely made use of the headline to draw attention to its site. As expected, the headline drew the attention of the public who thought the Pantami in the story referenced the Minister.
A screenshot of the story has been repeatedly shared on some Facebook groups with misleading captions to support the claim that the Pantami arrested was the Minister.
A user, Odigomma Nwaoha who shared a screenshot of the story which is currently on the site of Independent News Nigeria, supported the post with a caption, ”JUST IN… The minister of communication, Isa pantami Arrested over Attempt to supply logistics to Terrorists in Nigeria!”
This was shared the exact way by another Facebook user identified as Mazi Durunwa Chiukwunomso who placed a snapshot of the headline alongside a photo of Minister Pantami. The post had over 200 shares.
Kalu Onyedikachi, another Facebook user posted the headline twice garnering over 40 re-shares on the social media platform.
A Facebook user, Irinnaya Kanu shared the same information on his page with the caption, ”JUST IN… The minister of communication Isa pantami Arrested over Attempt to supply logistics to Terrorists in Nigeria !!! Remember he is in charge of NIN.”
Recall that barely a year ago, Minister Pantami had come under fire for expressing views sympathetic to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Boko Haram.
The Minister in one sermon from the 2000s, said he considered al-Qaeda founder, Osama Bin Laden, a better Muslim than himself, and in another, he said he was happy when infidels were massacred.
These recordings circulated the social media at the time resulting in calls for his resignation or sack by the President.
PantamiMustGo hashtag was created on Twitter to express concerns over his access to sensitive data as the minister of communications.
A basic element of headline and news reports is the prominence of the “who” or ”what” in the incident being reported. This goes a long way to influence whether the name of the individual or place will be mentioned in the headline.
And in his article titled, ‘The media must stop using misleading headlines’, Benedictus explained that while headlines may be a tiny part of the article, they are often the only part that people read.
”This makes the real misinformation capable of real harm,” he added.
Also, an article in New Yorker explains that a headline changes the way people read an article and the way they remember it.
While the headline was crafted to gain attention and attract clicks, the narrative was a usual news story on the activities of the military to secure victory against terrorism in the country.
The Pantami in question was a random individual arrested with logistics items being transported to criminals. He was reported to have purchased the items in large quantities for further supply to terrorists at Gomari village in Fere LGA of Borno State.
According to the statement by DMO, “Mallam Modu Pantami was apprehended at the outskirt of Benishied village in Kaga Local Government Area while attempting to transport a large quantity of logistics items he purchased for onward supply to terrorists at Gomari village in Fere Local Government Area of Borno State.”
While the statement clearly indicated the identity of the Pantami that was arrested, the newspaper deliberately crafted a headline that was misleading to lead readers to the report.
Although the event took place, the name ’Pantami’ in the headline gave the story a rather unusual attention. While some users took time to read the actual narrative others took it as it was.
Social media posts claiming Minister Pantami was arrested are false as they are based on a misleading headline by the Independent. The Pantami in question is just a random person caught with logistics supply for terrorists.