The threat by the federal government to sanction US Cable News Network, CNN, over its investigative report on the shooting of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos, yesterday provoked outrage across the country.
Government also challenged the promoters of #EndSARS campaign who accused soldiers of mass killing of innocent, peaceful and unarmed protesters at the tollgate to produce evidence of the mass murder or shut up.
But CNN in a statement by its spokesperson, said it stood by its story, adding that the report was carefully and meticulously researched.
Noting that its report was based on testimony from dozens of witnesses and verified footage of soldiers appearing to shoot in direction of protesters, CNN said: “Our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it.”
Those who expressed outrage include civil society organisations, CSOs, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, and Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, who advised government to be cautions in its dealing with the news network
However, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the report by CNN on the EndSARS protest was not factual and called on the media company to sanction the erring reporters on the matter.
He said the federal government would on its part, take necessary steps to punish the international news organisation, though he did not say what nature of punishment would be meted out on the news network.
He said: “CNN goofed in its preconceived stance that the soldiers who were deployed to Lekki Toll Gate, indeed, shot at protesters, killing some of them. CNN relied heavily on unverified and possibly-doctored videos, as well as information sourced from questionable sources, to reach its conclusion. This should earn CNN a serious sanction for irresponsible reporting.
“Like everyone else, I watched the CNN report. I must tell you that it reinforces the disinformation that is going round, and it is blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organization
CNN engaged in incredible sensationalism and did a great disservice to itself and to journalism. In the first instance, CNN, which touted its report as an exclusive investigative report, sadly relied on the same videos that have been circulating on social media, without verification.
“This is very serious and CNN should be sanctioned for that. CNN merely said the videos were ‘’obtained by CNN’’, without saying wherefrom and whether or not it authenticated them. Were CNN reporters and cameramen at the Lekki Toll Gate that evening?
Why didn’t the CNN balance its story by showing the compelling testimony of Brig.-Gen. Taiwo before the Judicial Panel in Lagos? Is this one-sided reporting what is expected from an international media organization or any serious news organization? If CNN had done its investigation properly, it would have known how fake news and disinformation were trending during the #EndSARS crisis.
In airing its so-called investigative report, CNN conveniently forgot that on October 23, 2020, it tweeted, from its verified twitter handle that the military killed 38 people when it opened fire on peaceful protesters on Tuesday, October. 20, 2020.
‘’Less than a month later, the same CNN, in what it called an EXCLUSIVE report based on a rehash of old, unverified videos, was only able to confirm that one person died in the same incident.
“In its jaundiced reporting, CNN was blind to the fact that six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed in unprovoked attacks. Obviously, CNN did not consider the security agents human enough. CNN, in its ‘investigation’, was blind to the wanton destruction of property in Lagos and across the country.
Also, CNN was blind to the burning of police stations and vehicles all over the country. Instead, it went to town with unverified social media footages, in its desperation to prove that people were killed at the Lekki Toll Gate.
‘’This is irresponsible journalism for which CNN deserves to be sanctioned. We insist that the military did not shoot at protesters at Lekki Toll Gate. They fired blank ammunition in the air. Again, anyone who knows anyone who was killed at Lekki Toll Gate should head to the Judicial Panel with conclusive evidence of such.”