The Federal Government has berated the Cable News Network for its report on the #EndSARS protest in the Lekki area of Lagos.
It said the CNN was not fair in report.
The government also demanded an investigation from CNN into the report on the Lekki Tollgate incident “to determine, among others, its authenticity.”
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, stated these in his letter to Jonathan Hawkins, VP (Communications), CNN Centre, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
The letter, dated November 23, 2020 and titled, ‘Re: How a bloody night of bullets quashed a young protest movement’, was obtained in Abuja on Monday.
The letter read partly, “We write to put on record that the report did not just fall short of journalistic standards, it reinforces the disinformation that is going around on the issue, it is blatantly irresponsible and it is a poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organisation.”
The government said rushing to air the story without presenting the government’s side was inexcusable and indefensible.
“CNN said it contacted over 100 protesters and family members, but did not speak to one official of Nigeria’s Federal Government. While CNN said there was no response from the army and that officials of Lagos State would not speak in view of the Judicial Panel that is investigating the matter, it did not say what effort it made to speak with any official of the Federal Government.
“The truth is that CNN did not even attempt to reach the Federal Government. Nima Elbagir, who presented the report and most probably led the investigation, is conversant with the Minister of Information and Culture, who is also the spokesman for the Federal Government of Nigeria, yet did not say that she even tried to reach the minister,” the letter added.
The Federal Government also lamented that the television relied “heavily on unverified footages it harvested from social media,” adding that such was fraught with danger.
“It is also interesting that while CNN obtained footage showing when the vehicles carrying soldiers left their barracks and arrived at the Lekki Toll Gate, it could not obtain any footage showing the bodies of those supposedly killed in the massacre.
“CNN has said it stands by its story, and that ‘our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched.’ This is baffling, considering that the story lacks fairness and balance,” the FG said.
It also carpeted one of the star eyewitnesses in the report, DJ Switch, saying her story on the Lekki Tollgate shooting had changed several times.
“From claiming that she counted 78 bodies of protesters who were supposedly killed by soldiers on the night of the Lekki Tollgate incident, she has twice, at least, changed the casualty figure from 78 to 15 and then to 7, without a shred of evidence,” the letter read.
The government lamented that CNN did not for once mention the fact that six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed during the #EndSARS crisis, adding that the report was not the first time CNN had “carried an inaccurate or hoax story about Nigeria.”
“As a form of remediation, Nigeria’s Federal Government demands an immediate and exhaustive investigation from CNN into its ‘investigative’ report on the Lekki Tollgate incident to determine, among others, its authenticity, whether or not it met the basic standards of journalism and also the selective use of unverified social media videos to manipulate public opinion. While it is up to CNN to accede or not, please note that the Federal Government reserves the right to take any action within its laws to prevent CNN from aggravating the #EndSARS crisis with unprofessional, irresponsible, one-sided, inciting and sensational reporting that is capable of pitting Nigerians against themselves and setting the country on fire.”