The President Muhammadu Buhari Federal Government, has threatened to take legal action against CNN, if it does not do an exhaustive investigation into its report on the ordered shooting of peaceful EndSARS protesters by suspected Law Enforcement Agents, at Lekki toll gate, on October 20,
Recall, that a few days ago, CNN released a report titled: ‘How a bloody night of bullets quashed a young protest movement’, on the shooting at Lekki toll gate.
In the report, CNN showed how the Nigerian Military shot, killed, and injured some protesters in Lagos, allegedly.
Following the report, the Federal Government through the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, described the report as untrue and inciting.
In a letter dated November 23, 2020, signed by Lai Mohammed, the Federal Government urged CNN to investigate its report, to ascertain if it meets up with the basic standards of journalism.
The letter which was directed to Mr. Jonathan Hawkins, the Vice President, Communications, CNN Centre, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America, USA, faulted the Media house on keeping silence over the killing of 6 Soldiers, and 37 Policemen during the EndSARS protests.
The letter reads in part: “As a form of remediation, Nigeria’s Federal Government demands an immediate and exhaustive investigation from CNN into its ‘investigative’ report on the Lekki Toll Gate incident to determine, among others, its authenticity, whether or not it met the basic standards of journalism and also the selective use of unverified social media videos to manipulate public opinion.
“While it is up to CNN to accede or not, please note that the Federal Government reserves the right to take any action within its laws to prevent CNN from aggravating the EndSARS crisis with unprofessional, irresponsible, one-sided, inciting and sensational reporting that is capable of pitching Nigerians against themselves and setting the country on fire.
“It is shocking that all through its ‘investigation’, CNN did not for once mention the fact that 6 Soldiers and 37 Policemen were killed during the EndSARS crisis, which also left 196 Policemen injured, not to talk of the monumental destruction of government and private properties across the country.
“Instead, the network is fixated on the massacre that never happened. Are Security Agents not human beings too? Are they not entitled to the protection of their human rights?”
The Federal Government said that this is not the first time CNN is carrying inaccurate or hoax news about Nigeria.
Lai Mohammed added: “In February 2007, Nigeria accused CNN of staging one of its reports from the country’s Niger Delta region, showing gunmen holding 24 Filipinos hostage.
“Of course, CNN and its then Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange flatly denied the charge, saying the network did not pay for any part of the report. Later, in an email reportedly sent to a friend, Mr Koinange was quoted as saying: ‘Of course we had to pay certain people to get the story… You do not get such a story without bribing.’ So much for denials!”
Furthermore, the letter said: “In the first instance, the report did not live up to the most.
“According to the website www.ethics.journalists.org, ‘balance and fairness are classic buzzwords of journalism ethics: In objective journalism, stories must be balanced in the sense of attempting to present all sides of a story. Fairness means that a journalist should strive for accuracy and truth in reporting, and not slant a story so a reader draws the reporter’s desired conclusion’.
“Rushing to air such a momentous story without presenting the government’s side is inexcusable and indefensible. CNN said it contacted over 100 protesters and family members, but did not speak to one official of Nigeria’s Federal Government.
“While CNN said there was no response from the Army and that Officials of Lagos State would not speak in view of the Judicial Panel that is investigating the matter. It did not say what effort it made to speak with any Official of the Federal Government.
“The truth is that CNN did not even attempt to reach the Federal Government. Nima Elbagir, who presented the report and most probably led the investigation, is conversant with the Minister of Information and Culture, who is also the Spokesman for the Federal Government of Nigeria, yet did not say that she even tried to reach the Minister.
“It is therefore strange, to say the least, that she would rush to air such an important ‘investigation’ report without getting the government’s side. In other words, Nima, and by extension CNN, breached the most basic of the core principles of journalism – balance and fairness.
“CNN has said it stands by its story, and that ‘’our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched.’ This is baffling, considering that the story lacks fairness and balance, as we have pointed out, and that the organization relied heavily on manipulated social media videos.
“This resort to an escapist cliche seems more like a face-saving measure by an otherwise respectable news network caught in the blinding glare of ‘fake news and disinformation’ headlamps. Or how else does one explain the arrogant defence of an international news network that would not even respect the most basic principle of journalism?
“One of CNN’s star eyewitnesses in its ‘investigative’ reporting is DJ Switch. Unknown to CNN, DJ Switch’s story on the Lekki Toll Gate shooting has changed several times. From claiming she counted 78 bodies of protesters who were supposedly killed by soldiers on the night of the Lekki Toll Gate incident, she has twice, at least, changed the casualty figure from 78 to 15 and then to 7, without a shred of evidence.
“CNN cannot pretend not to know that for anyone to act as a witness, his or her credibility must be unimpeachable. DJ Switch’s credibility does not meet that threshold.
“In one of social media videos of DJ Switch that was used by CNN (see attached link 1), the lady (DJ Switch) claimed she and some unnamed persons carried dead bodies and dropped them at the feet of the soldiers. She also claimed she spoke to their Commander before the soldiers threw the bodies into the vans.
“Curiously, for someone who was streaming live on Instagram during the Lekki Toll Gate incident, there was not a single video or picture of the dead bodies. Not even Godson (Uyi), another CNN star witness whose video was also used by the network, or any of the hundreds of protesters, all armed with smartphones, at the scene recorded a video or shot a picture of dead bodies being carried away by Soldiers.”