The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has admonished local broadcast stations to always take the lead in presenting authentic narrative on national issues.
The Minister gave the admonition on Friday in Abuja during a stakeholders’ meeting with members of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria.
Speaking on the alleged faux pas of the Cable News Network in the report of the #EndSARS protest and alleged killings at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State, Mohammed said local stations would have dictated the pace in reporting the incident objectively.
He said: “The lesson to draw from CNN’s faux pas on its report of #EndSARS protest is that it magnifies 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 the 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.”
The Minister also cautioned local broadcast stations against the use of unverified videos for their reports.
Mohammed said the non-adherence to the basic tenets of journalism had combined to land CNN in trouble.
He said: “This 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 20th.
“The station was also found to be inconsistent: After tweeting, without a shred of evidence, from its verified handle on October 23 that soldiers killed 38 peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20th, the same station now said only one person was killed.
“It is baffling that an organisation like CNN will rely on unauthenticated videos to carry out an investigation.
“More worrisome is that an international broadcaster like CNN will switch casualty figures so casually without a credible source.
“This is why we have written a letter to CNN asking it to use its own internal mechanism to probe its investigation.^
Mohammed said they had received an acknowledgement of the petition to the CNN and awaiting the outcome of its probe.
He said the government will not sit by and allow any news organisation to set Nigeria on fire with irresponsible and unprofessional reporting.
On the three broadcast stations sanctioned by the National Broadcasting Commission in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests, the Minister said the action was to deter irresponsible reporting.
Mohammed said: “Some analysts have attempted to muddle the waters by alleging an attempt to stifle the media. This is sheer red herring.
“The simple truth is that the NBC imposed fines on the three broadcast stations for using unverified and dangerous information from social media.
“Two of the stations have paid in full, while one has paid in part.”
Mohammed appealed to broadcast stations to refrain from using unverified information on social media.
“Despite the temptation, the stations must adhere strictly to the gate-keeping tradition instead of rushing to use materials that are not authenticated,’’ he said
The Vice Chairman of BON, Geoffrey Ohuabunwa, who responded on behalf of other members, thanked the minister for the meeting.
He called for regular interaction between the minister and the organisation.
Ohuabunwa also called for a more seamless access to government information by BON members to enable them disseminate news on government programmes and agenda.
He enjoined the Minister to redouble his commitment to the actualisation of Digital Switch Over before the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.