The Federal Government has called for serious sanctions to be slammed on the American Cable News Network, CNN, over its perceived erroneous report on the recent #EndSARS protest which turned our to be a piece of fake news.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said at a press conference in Abuja yesterday that CNN goofed in its report that soldiers fired live bullets at protesters leading to the death of many, saying this should earn the cable TV station a ‘serious sanction for irresponsible reporting’.
Lai Mohammed called on the management of CNN to immediately refer to their internal control mechanism to apply the sanctions on all who have erred in getting the unverified report out to the public, adding that the Nigerian government will initiate processes to address the perceived gaffe by CNN. “The government will do the needful”, he said.
According to him, CNN erred 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,” he said.
The minister faulted CNN for engaging in incredible sensationalism, 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.
“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?
“If the answer is no, on what basis were they reporting? Relying on second or third hand information and presenting it as ‘’CNN Investigation’’?
“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. The BBC even did a report on this, and we recommend that report to CNN. Talking about the BBC, a reporter with the BBC’s Pidgin Service, Damilola Banjo, was at Lekki Toll Gate protest ground that night. She was quoted as saying soldiers were indeed at the Toll Gate but they shot ‘’sporadically into the air’’ and not at the protesters. CNN that was not at the scene reported otherwise.
“In airing its so-called investigative report, CNN conveniently forgot that on Oct. 23rd 2020, it tweeted, from its verified twitter handle, that the military killed 38 people when it opened fire on peaceful protesters on Tuesday, Oct. 20th 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.
“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”, Lai Mohammed said.
He said while the Judicial Panel sitting in Lagos works to unravel what really transpired at the Lekki Toll Gate, available evidence so far suggeats that this is the world’s first case of massacre without blood or bodies.
Commenting on the recent sanctions imposed on some local TV stations for erring erroneous reports during the said protests, Lai Mohammed noted that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) fined three broadcast stations for using unverified and dangerous information from social media.
He said commentators, many of whom didn’t even know why the NBC imposed the fine, rushed to allege an attempt to stifle free speech. “Unknown to them, the stations themselves know that they breached the Broadcasting Code. Two of them have paid their fines in full, while the third has paid a part of the fine, with an appeal for time to pay the balance.”
According to him, the position of the Federal Government is that not only were the fines justified, the NBC was indeed lenient.
He faulted the trend in which even the traditional media is freely using materials from social media without taking the pains to verify their authenticity. “This is a dangerous trend that must be curbed, in the interest of the media practitioners themselves, the profession and indeed the country,” he said.
He cited an example of one of such fake news, a report by an otherwise reputable broadcast media organization that the Ecumenical Centre in Abuja was on fire during the violence that followed the protest.
“Though the organization in question later retracted the story, the kind of reprisal attack this could have sparked is better imagined.
Credit: Peoples Daily