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Lekki shooting: FG threatens lawsuit over CNN investigation

By Oluwaseun Sonde

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The Federal Government of Nigeria has threatened lawsuit on aggravation of #EndSARS crisis with unprofessional, irresponsible, one-sided, inciting and sensational reporting conducted by an International Media Organization (CNN) over the shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki toll gate, Lagos, Nigeria.

In a letter written to the VP, Communication of the Media platform, Mr. Jonathan Hawkins, Atlanta Georgia, United States on Monday by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on the publication entitled ‘How a Bloody Night of Bullets Quashed a Young Protest Movement’ and aired on 18 Nov. 2020.

According to him, “we write to put on record that the report did not just fall short of journalistic standards, it reinforces the disinformation that is going around on the issue, it is blatantly irresponsible and it is a
poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organization.

“In the first instance, the report did not live up to the most basic of the core principles of journalism – balance and fairness. 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”.

He noted 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 without reaching 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”, he said.

According to him, “Another serious breach by CNN, in its ‘investigation’, is that the network relied heavily on unverified footages it harvested from social media. CNN was not present at the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of the incident. Neither its reporter nor cameraman was there, but it relied on eyewitnesses. Well, this is fraught with danger.

“While experts say eyewitness testimony is a potent form of evidence, it is also subject to unconscious memory distortions and biases, Unlike CNN, a reporter from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Pidgin Service, Damilola Banjo, was at the Lekki Toll Gate on the night in question, and was quoted as saying soldiers shot sporadically into the air and not at the protesters, a direct contradiction of the position taken by CNN who relied on second and third-hand information”.

He added that in airing its ‘investigative’ report, CNN conveniently forgot that
on Oct. 23rd 2020, it emphatically tweeted, from its verified twitter handle, that the military killed 38 people when it opened fire on peaceful protesters on Tuesday, Oct. 20th 2020.

“Almost a month later, the same CNN after a supposedly exhaustive investigation – is now reporting only one death from what the world was made to believe was a massacre. Is CNN not embarrassed by this sharp climbdown? Has CNN owned up to this and apologized for its faux paz?

“It is also interesting that while CNN obtained footage showing when the vehicles carrying soldiers left their barracks and arrived at the Lekki Toll Gate, it could not obtain any footage showing the bodies of those supposedly killed in the ‘massacre’. After all, forensic ballistic experts will most likely testify that firing
military grade weapons into a crowd will not leave anyone needing a microscope to look for blood or bodies at the scene.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed stated that 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”.





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