The Federal Government yesterday said it was awaiting the outcome of the Cable News Network’s (CNN) probe of its exclusive report on the incident at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, which was aired by the international television station.
The government, however, said the outcome of the probe was without prejudice to whatever it may decide to do. It vowed that it would not sit by and allow any news organisation, local or foreign, to set Nigeria on fire with irresponsible and unprofessional reporting.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this at a meeting with members of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) in Abuja, noted that the violence that resulted from the hijack of the #EndSARS protest was catalysed by fake news and disinformation, which spread like wildfire on social media.
Mohammed insisted that the use of unverified videos and non-adherence to the basic tenets of journalism have combined to land the CNN in trouble, adding that the station has been caught in the web of fake news and disinformation after it relied heavily on videos it took from social media for a supposed exclusive investigation on the incident at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20.
He noted that government has written a letter to CNN asking it to use its own internal mechanism to probe its investigation and has received an acknowledgement of the letter, saying the letter has been referred to CNN’s Editorial Team.
Mohammed observed that since government sent the letter, CNN has been grasping at straws in desperation to justify its inaccurate and unbalanced investigation but has been sinking more and more into professional infamy in the process.
He argued that the CNN did not have a reporter or cameraman at the Lekki Toll Gate on the night in question, yet it emphatically reported a hoax story.
The minister added: “The station was also found to be inconsistent. After tweeting, without a shred of evidence, from its verified handle on October 23rd that soldiers killed 38 peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20th, the same station now said only one person was killed after a month of its investigation. What an embarrassment.
“On November 26th, in the clearest indication yet of its confusion over the Lekki Toll Gate incident, CNN tried to clarify its tweet of October 23rd by saying it never attributed the death toll of 38 to Amnesty International and that the tweet also did not make it clear that the death toll was for protests across the country.
“Commentators on the tweet tried to redirect CNN to the issue, which is its tweet of October 23rd in which it said ‘at least 38 people were killed in Nigeria on Tuesday, October 20th when the military opened fire on peaceful protesters.’ This is very unambiguous and CNN is exhibiting panic by seeking to clarify its tweet some 35 days later!
“Instead of engaging in such panic, CNN should come clean by admitting that it goofed badly on the Lekki Toll Gate incident.”
Mohammed told the BON members that the big lesson to draw from CNN’s faux pas was that it magnified the failure or inadequacy of our own broadcast organisations.
“In the wake of our spat with CNN, people are asking: Why didn’t our own broadcast stations take the lead in reporting the incident at Lekki? Why didn’t they take the lead in presenting an authentic narrative? Why must we allow foreign broadcast stations, some of which didn’t even have correspondents on ground, to dictate the pace, thus misleading the world?
“These are questions begging for answers and I think for BON, this must form part of their review of the coverage of the whole crisis.”
He commended the security agencies for their professionalism and their restraint, which helped to save many lives, stressing that even in the face of attacks and provocation, the security agencies, in particular the police and soldiers, acted within their rules of engagement.
He added: “The reporting of the #EndSARS protest has been skewed against the security agencies. While most reports have become fixated on the so-called massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate, only a few have highlighted the attacks and killings of security agents, as well as the destruction of public and private property. This is selective perception and it is condemnable.
“For the record, six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed all over the country during the crisis. Also, 196 policemen were injured; 164 police vehicles were destroyed and 134 police stations burnt down. The killing of the policemen was particularly gruesome and dastardly.
“Yet, human rights organisations and the media have not given this the attention it deserves. Rather, they have remained fixated on the so-called massacre. It seems human rights do not matter for men and women in uniform. This is unfortunate and must be corrected. Please note that the violence also left 57 civilians dead, 269 private/corporate facilities burnt/looted/vandalised, 243 government facilities burnt/vandalised and 81 government warehouses looted.”