F.G TO SANCTION CNN OVER ITS INVESTIGATIVE REPORT ON THE SHOOTING OF #ENDSARS PROTESTERS BY SOLDIERS AT LEKKI TOLLGATE – Lai MoHAMMED

Lai Mohammed

Wakeupafrica360 correspondent in Nigeria reports that the Federal Government of Nigeria yesterday called for sanction against international news station, Cable News Network (CNN) for allegedly promoting fake news on the killing of #EndSARS protesters at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos last month. The peaceful #EndSARS protest degenerated into violence after hoodlums hijacked it shortly after the shooting incidence by soldiers at Lekki Tollgate. The federal government has taken different measures to oppress key promoters of the peaceful protest; some had their bank accounts frozen, others where stopped from traveling outside the country while others had their business de registered from the Cooperate Affairs Commission (CAC), three broadcast organizations were fined. In the aftermath of the protest, various accounts emerged on what happened when Nigerian soldiers opened fire at the scene of the protest. The recent account is the feature currently on CNN, where the news station says its investigation has confirmed soldiers fired directly at protesters. But speaking at a media conference in Abuja, yesterday, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, claimed CNN aired false information. 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”.

The minister 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. This is very serious and CNN should be sanctioned for that. CNN merely said the videos were obtained by CNN, without saying where-from 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”.

Different organizations have expressed outrage over the statement by Lai Mohammed. The organizations include civil society organizations (CSOs), and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), who advised government to be cautions in its dealing with the news network. Reacting yesterday, Inibehe Effiong, Legal Counsel to RevolutionNowMovement, said: “The Federal Government’s threat against CNN is an empty threat, Lai Mohammed is confusing CNN with NTA. He should stop comical behavior. No serious person will pay attention to his threat. These so-called progressives who came to power on a dubious mantra of change have turned Nigeria into a lawless country. The international community is not ignorant of the campaign of falsehood promoted by the Nigerian Army and people like Lai Mohammed on the Lekki Tollgate incident”. On his part, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said: “When you have some not-so-serious people occupying government offices, this is the funny response they give to investigative reports of this magnitude and depth”. The Country Director of Global Peace Foundation (GPFN), Joseph Hayab, said: “Threatening to sanction any media and most importantly an international medium like CNN may not be a good idea. Those making those threats do not even have any reliable structure to challenge the media organization that they are threatening to sanction. Already, Nigeria is being perceived as a country that suppresses the media. So, the current threat against CNN can only further put us in bad light”. Similarly, The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said the threat of sanction made by the government was capable of creating the impression that there was a deliberate attempt to suppress information about what really happened at the Lekki toll gate. In his reaction, Ahmed Raji, SAN, said: “I think the Federal Government should tread softly. It should rather engage CNN and ask for proof of whatever allegation they have made”.

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