The Nigerian government is calling on CNN to carry out an “immediate and exhaustive investigation” into its investigative report on the shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki toll gate to determine its authenticity.
In a seven-page letter to the international news network dated Monday, November 23, the country’s Minister of information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, warned that the government reserved the right to prevent CNN from “aggravating the #EndSARS crises with unprofessional, irresponsible reporting” that could set the country on fire.
“As a form of remediation, Nigeria’s Federal Government demands an immediate and exhaustive investigation from CNN into its investigative report on the Lekki toll gate 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,” Mohammed wrote.
“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 pitching Nigerians against themselves and setting the country on fire.”
Mohamed said the report “did not live up to the most basic of core principles of journalism- balance and fairness”.
“We write to put on record that the report did not just fall short of journalistic standards, it reinforces the disinformation that is going on around the issue, it is blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organisation.”
CNN’s documentary was on the Nigerian Army firing at peaceful anti-police brutality protesters gathered at the toll gate in Lekki on October 20.
However, the army denied using live rounds, saying it shot into the air with blank bullets.
Mohammed chastised the news organization for relying on “unverified and manipulated footages it harvested from social media” in its report, as neither its reporters or cameramen were present at the toll gate on the night of the incident.
The network said it used verified video footages, testimony from several eyewitnesses they interviewed and forensic examination of videos and pictures captured before, during and after the incident.
“Rushing to air such a momentous story without presenting the government’s side is inexcusable and indefensible. CNN said it contacted over 100 protesters and family members but it did not speak to one official of Nigeria’s federal government,” the minister wrote.
“The truth is that CNN did not even attempt to reach the federal government.”
The Minister went on to refute claims by some prominent eyewitnesses, including DJ Switch who filmed the aftermath of the shooting on Instagram live, and Godson Uyi, and accused the network of leaving out relevant eveidence “in its rush to nail soldiers and tell a radically different story”.
“This is clearly a ploy by the CNN reporter/presenter to manipulate viewers… and force them to draw the reporter’s desired conclusion!” Mohammed said.
He continued: “For the record, this is not the first time that CNN has carried an inaccurate or hoax story about Nigeria,” Mohammed said.
He stated that “in February 2007, Nigeria accused CNN of staging one of its reports from the country’s Niger Delta region, showing gunmen holding 24 Filipinos hostage. Of course, CNN and its then Africa Correspondent Jeff Koinange flatly denied the charge, saying the network did not pay for any part of the report.
“Later, in an email reportedly sent to a friend, Mr. Koinange was quoted as saying: ‘Of course we had to pay certain people to get the story… You do not get such a story without bribing.’ So much for denials!”
CNN last week insisted that it stands by its report, with a spokesperson saying it was “carefully and meticulously researched.”