The Federal Government says the CNN report on the hoax Lekki Toll Gate killings is “fake, disservice to journalism profession’’ and calls for sanction against the international news organisation.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed made the call on Thursday in Abuja at a media briefing on the #EndSARS protest and its aftermath.
The minister said the CNN goofed in its preconceived stance that the soldiers who were deployed to Lekki Toll Gate shot at protesters, killing some of them.
He said the media outfit relied heavily on unverified and possibly-doctored videos, as well as information sourced from questionable sources, to reach its conclusion.
“Like everyone else, I watched the CNN report and 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 organisation.
“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,’’ he said.
Mohammed said the CNN reporter and cameraman were not on ground during the incident but obtained second hand information without authentication to reach its conclusion.
“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 are they reporting? Relying on second or third hand information and presenting it as ”CNN Investigation”?
“Is this 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.’’ he said
The minister said the CNN failed to balance its story by showing the compelling testimony of Brig.-Gen. IbrahimTaiwo before the Judicial Panel in Lagos.
He said the one-sided reporting was unexpected from an international and serious media organisation like the CNN.
Besides, Mohammed said in airing its so-called investigative report, CNN forgot that it tweeted, from its verified twitter handle on October 23 that the military killed 38 people when it opened fire on peaceful protesters.
“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,’’ he said.
Mohammed said the CNN could have taken cue from the BBC which did a professional report on the incidence.
“Talking about the BBC, a reporter with the BBC’s Pidgin Service, Damilola Banjo, was at Lekki Toll Gate protest ground that night.
“She was quoted as saying soldiers were indeed at the Toll Gate but they shot ‘’sporadically into the air’’ and not at the “protesters. CNN that was not at the scene reported otherwise,’’ he said.
The minister contended that showing injured or dead protesters in videos with questionable sources is no conclusive proof that anyone was shot dead at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“Afterall, 57 civilians died nationwide during the protest.
“Did CNN know that? So showing a dead body or an injured protester is no conclusive proof that any protester was shot dead at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“In its jaundiced reporting, CNN was blind to the fact that six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed in unprovoked attacks.
“Obviously, CNN did not consider the security agents human enough.
“Conveniently, CNN, in its ‘investigation’, was blind to the wanton destruction of property in Lagos and across the country,’’ he said.
The minister said the CNN was also blind to the burning of police stations and vehicles all over the country.
He said the media outfit, rather went to town with unverified social media footages, in its desperation to prove that people were killed at the Lekki Toll Gate.
The minister insisted that the military did not shoot at protesters at Lekki Toll Gate rather they fired blank ammunition in the air.
He challenged anybody who knows anyone that was killed at Lekki Toll Gate to head to the Judicial Panel with conclusive evidence of such.
The CNN in its report had concluded that soldiers shot live bullets at the unarmed protesters at Lekki Toll Gate.
The Heads of all information agencies under the ministry of information and culture including the Managing Director, News Agency of Nigeria, Buki Ponle were at the media briefing.