Saturday, 28 November 2020

#EndSARS: FG Insists On Imposing Sanctions On CNN

The Federal government on Friday reiterated its earlier position to sanction United States based Cable Network News (CNN), for carrying out unverified information from the controversial Lekki Toll Gate protest, which was alleged to have led to some deaths.

Alh. Lai Mohammed, Minis­ter of Information and Culture, who made the position known at a stakeholder’ meeting with the Broadcasting Organisa­tions of Nigeria (BON) in Abu­ja on Friday, also vowed to deal with any media organisation both local and international attempting to set Nigeria on fire through unverifiable reportage.

The Minister accused CNN of spreading fake news by switching casualty figures at Lekki Toll Gate so casual­ly without a credible source, hence, its decision to write a letter to CNN asking it to use its own internal mechanism to probe its investigation.

While noting that CNN had acknowledged the letter of complaint and promised to probe same on its merit, he in­sisted that the use of unverified videos and non-adherence to the basic tenets of journalism have combined to land the in­ ternational broadcaster, CNN, in trouble.

He said the station had 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 Oct. 20th.

He also insisted that the station was found to be incon­sistent saying, “after tweeting, without a shred of evidence, from its verified handle on Oct. 23rd that soldier killed 38 peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on Oct. 20th, the same station now said only one per­son was killed – after a month of its investigation.

“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.

“We have received an ac­knowledgement of our letter, saying the letter has been re­ferred to CNN’s Editorial Team. We await the outcome of their probe, but that’s without preju­dice to whatever we may decide to do as a government.

“We will not sit by and allow any news organization, local or foreign, to set Nigeria on fire with irresponsible and unpro­fessional reporting.

“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.

Conversely, the BBC that had a reporter and an editor on ground reported that soldiers shot into the air, not at protesters. I will rather believe the person on the ground than the one who is thousands of kilometres away.

“Since we sent our letter, CNN has been grasping at straws in desperation, to jus­tify its inaccurate and unbal­anced investigation. But in the process, it is sinking more and more into professional infamy.

Yesterday, Nov. 26th that is, in the clearest indication yet of its confusion over the Lekki Toll Gate incident, CNN tried to clarify its tweet of Oct. 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 Oct. 23rd in which it said at least 38 people were killed in Nigeria on Tuesday (Oct. 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.

“But the big lesson to draw from CNN’s faux pas 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 incident.”

The minister commended security agencies for their pro­fessional role noting that by restraining themselves, they helped to save many lives even in the face of attacks and prov­ocation during and after the EndSARS protest.

“The security agencies, in particular the police and sol­diers, acted within their rules of engagement. 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.”

Reiterating government’s plan to regulate the social media, Mohammed assured that the administration has no plan to stifle free speech, neither does it have any in­tention of shutting down the internet but has decided to act to ensure a responsible use of social media.

“Social media has come to stay, and those who use it re­sponsibly have nothing to fear. But we cannot give the same assurance for those who wea­ponise social media.

“By the way, the issue of reg­ulating social media content is generating debate around the world, so Nigeria is not an ex­ception.

Mohammed further dis­closed that two out of the three stations imposed a fine of N3 million by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for using unverified and dangerous information from social media, have so far paid in full, while one has paid in part.

He however, appealed to broadcast stations to avoid using unverified information from social media, as this was fraught with danger, even as he insisted that despite the tempta­tion, the stations must adhere strictly to the gate-keeping tradition instead of rushing to use materials that are not au­thenticated.


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