The threat by the federal government to sanction United States Cable News Network (CNN), over its investigative report on the shooting of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos, yesterday provoked disapproval 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 keep quiet.
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 organizations, (CSOs), the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), and Senior Advocates of Nigeria(SANs), who advised government to be cautious 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 organization, though he did not say what nature of punishment would be meted out on the news network.
He said: “CNN scorned 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.
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. 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. CNN was also 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.
The minister disclosed that two of the three broadcast organizations fined by the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission have paid their fine in full, with the third having made part payment.
“As we have said many times, no responsible government will stand by and allow such abuse of social media to continue.
The fake news/disinformation purveyors have latched on to our concerns to allege that the Federal Government is planning to shut down social media.
No, we have no plans to shut down the social media. What we have always advocated, and what we will do, is to regulate the social media. Nigeria is not alone in this regard.