Folks, I addressed this issue earlier this week on episode 58 of The Africa Music Law Podcast show. If you missed it, catch it at the bottom of this article.
As a quick summary, here is what I said specifically:
1. Linda Ikeji was reckless in how she handled an exclusive story that artist Skiibii was allegedly dead. She should have done her due diligence, she did not. Calling a manager and nothing more, where death is concerned, was simply reckless reporting, even as a gossip blogger. As I said on the show, the manager was thousands of miles away in a foreign country so there is and was no way the manager could have unequivocally confirmed or denied such news. Even if he unequivocally confirmed such news, the blogger here had a higher duty, given the sensitive nature of the topic i.e. death, to conduct further due diligence starting with making contact with the family of the alleged deceased.
2. When Linda Ikeji discovered that she was wrong and that the talent she claimed was dead was in fact alive, she was reckless in insinuating that his alleged death may have been a publicity stunt. It is my view that her insinuation is the catalyst that has caused so much damage to the artist and label. It is one thing to inaccurately report death and discover you are wrong. It is another thing to insinuate, after knowing you are wrong, that the alleged dead person may have pulled a publicity stunt based on an opinion of one of your readers and nothing more. As I said, unless Linda had uncontroverted evidence of foul play, making such insinuation on a powerful platform such as hers was simply reckless and it has had very damaging effect on the artist, the label and I would even argue the manager.
3. Well what about the manager? I addressed the manager’s liability. I said he was unprofessional and if I were Five Star Music, I would fire Soso Soberekon. I also addressed the legal liability of the label.
It appears the label listened to me and they in fact did fire Soso Soberekon. However, what I strongly disagree with is the label or anyone else heaping the exclusive blame on the manager. There is a video of the interview granted by the artist Skiibii and the label boss Kcee below.
In the interview, Kcee heaps the blame, exclusively, on Soso and so do others. Kcee, Harry Song, Skiibii,if you read this, you all are absolutely wrong. The blame lies with two persons Linda and Soso, and Linda carries the lion share of the blame. Further, if this was to go to court, the person that should be sued is Linda Ikeji. I’ll explain why in more details shortly.
For now, even if we all agree that Soso in fact told Linda that Skiibii was dead, what we cannot get around is THE FACT that she insinuated that this may have been a publicity stunt. To me this was the most dangerous and most damaging part of it all.
But for her making the insinuation that it may have been a publicity stunt, I believe we simply won’t be here.
So, for those apologizing to Linda Ikeji and claiming Linda did her job. I disagree. Linda did not do her job. That is simply an inaccurate and untrue statement.
By the way, before everyone gets all excited. Let be clear about one thing given how sometimes, as humans, we can be unnecessarily sensitive and forget to separate the person from the issue.
Linda Ikeji is NOT a bad person. Addressing legal liability issues in this case has nothing to do with good or bad. Good people make mistakes, all the time. However, those mistakes are signs that we need to slow down, take time out and/or reassess self so we don’t end up in worse situations. Also, as an industry, ALL of us are in this together to collectively learn and grow, and while the public at large may have their opinions, it doesn’t eviscerate our own obligation to improve and create a sustainable and stronger industry. This means we’ve got to be willing to call things as they are and put in the work to make them better.
This situation was mishandled from the very start and it continues to be by everyone now heaping blame, exclusively, on the manager. Kcee, at the end of the day, na you be the boss. You hired the manager. Leadership is stepping in and taking total responsibility, going within your business operation systems to handle and see how things can be handled better. Also, you had notice, based on the video below, that Skiibii has a history of health issues. He should be enrolled in an insurance health scheme if you will invest in him, as an artist, and expect him to perform on stage. To continue to ignore is health is simply not caring enough about your artist and your investment. This is unacceptable as a business owner and a label boss.
Now let me get to the legal liability part. I’ll focus exclusively on Linda Ikeji here because from a practical standpoint, as an attorney, I would not sue Soso. It makes no sense from all angles I view it. Why? The probability is that Soso will say he told Linda what Kcee conveyed in the video which is and loosely translated in pidgin, “e be like say Skiibii collapse, dem say he don die and dem don take am go hospital.”
Given the above statement, no reasonable blogger should conclude that Skiibii was conclusively and in fact dead, except one eager to break news right away and hold on to the throne of exclusivity.
The incident had just happened. The person telling you it is possible the artist may be dead is thousands of miles away from the country where the incident is taking place; and finally, you are yet to confirm the death with the alleged deceased’s family members. Given the sensitivity of the topic and your disposition as a celebrity blogger, you could have easily also sent a blog representative to go to the hospital and confirm. It is worth it. Therefore, from my view, suing Soso is a waste of time because it becomes a “he said, she said” and at the end of the day, Soso did not write the article or click the publish button. Also, Soso did not make the most damaging insinuation or statement that Skiibii’s collapsation and alleged death could possibly be a publicity stunt. Linda Ikeji did.
Linda Ikeji & Soso Soberekon Got too Personal and Mixed Business with Personal they Forgot their Jobs.
In my representation and dealings with African talents, I see this problem a lot. We have this idea that if you are my friend, if we hang out etc.., you’ve got to “cut me some slack.” Such “slack” include monetary discounts or no charge at all, and believing everything I tell you because I trust you, even if common sense would require you to do more fact checking for accuracy based on the nature of your job.
For example, I may be friends with Kcee as an attorney but assuming he came to me for legal services, friendship has nothing to do with getting my job done to protect his investments, business assets and make more money for him and needless to say, me. It is business. In fact, to preserve that friendship, I better deliver on what I say I will.
Here, Linda and Soberekon got too personal as friends. Soberekon wanted to make Linda happy for the future of his label brand and other artists on the label. Linda wanted an exclusive story to remain number one. In the end, the basic due diligence got lost on both ends, and here we are.
Linda in fact conveys that they have a trusted friendship. There is nothing wrong with a trusted friendship but you still as the gossip blogger/blogger or reporter have to fact check. In cases of death, it is no news that such cases are handled with a bit more care given their sensitive nature.
Manager, be a manager i.e. lead. Soso should have said, “Linda, I am on the road right now traveling. I can neither confirm nor deny. I need to investigate this further and also talk to Skiibii’s family. I’ll get back to you.”
Linda, on the other hand, should have taken the information and try to get in touch with Skiibii’s family/family member. If she is unable to and still wants that exclusivity because that is what keeps her at the top, among other things, then she could still report the story but provide the requisite disclaimer including the fact that the story was still developing, it was unclear whether the artist was in fact dead, he collapsed and has been rushed to the hospital; and she will update with more information. Her headlines and body of the story should consistently say the same thing.
Liability – Why it Matters
Why does it matter that the two should have performed more due diligence on both ends?
- We are talking about death here.
- The emotions of the public matter.
- The emotions of the talent reported dead matters when in fact he was not dead. The talent is still very young. He in fact does have a history of health issues brought on by extreme stress i.e. “blackouts” which is why he collapsed in the first place. Nobody denies he collapsed. Therefore, aggravating, antagonizing and causing even more severe distress to this artist is simply downright reckless. Skiibii’s name was rubbished, condemned, mocked with no one asking whether the young man who collapsed in fact had recovered and was okay. Also in the interview below, he explains he has been crying and in great distress.
- The emotions of the family of the artist matters. Causing such mental anguish as a result of being in a rush just to publish an exclusive story is unacceptable, especially where death is concerned.
- The emotions of the label boss matters.
- The reputation of all involved from Linda to Soso to Kcee and the artist matters. For the artist, this actually has had severe impact on him.
- The economic consequences matters, especially when a powerful celebrity blogger, in your entire country; and the continent insinuates to millions of her readers that your alleged death could have been a publicity stunt involving you the talent who is ill and receiving medical attention in the hospital. The above is why I say no one owes Linda Ikeji an apology. On the contrary, she should be the one apologizing.
Who Can Sue?
Kcee v. Linda Ikeji
Skiibii v. Linda Ikeji
Family of Skiibii v. Linda Ikeji (this may prove to be an interesting case here given the digital media aspect here. Long discussion to get into.)
What Law Applies?
Nigerian Tort (Personal Injury) Law.
What are the Possible Legal Claims?
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Note: For the legal minds among us, the defamatory claims and right of privacy claims (false light) may seem viable but I think it is somewhat attenuated especially as to Kcee, given that what Kcee does is of public interest. For Skiibii who was unknown, there might be much stronger claims. However, I’d focus in on the three above if I were handling it.
What Can the Parties/Potential Plaintiffs Recover?
It is a personal injury case so we are looking at:
a) Medical expenses
b) Lost wages or diminished earning capacity
c) Incidental economic consequences ( we already hear Kcee say he had to cancel his tour, he had to purchase tickets to return promptly to Nigeria, among other things).
d) Pain & Suffering: This is such clear and convincing evidence on and offline to prove this for Kcee and Skiibii.
e) Punitive Damages: If a court believes that Linda Ikeji’s insinuation was done out of malice (ill will, hatred, or reckless disregard to Skiibii’s rights for example), then the court can award what essentially is a “teach you a lesson” money so future persons wanting to follow Linda Ikeji’s footsteps are deterred.
I am done. Over to you. Do you agree or disagree with me?
Should most of the blame be heaped on Linda or is Soso exclusively responsible for this terrible incident?
AML Episode 058: Ask Ms. Uduak: Was Linda Ikeji Reckless in Insinuating Five Star Music Artist Skiibii May Have Faked his Own Death?