Lekki shooting: FG to sanction CNN, others over report

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…43 security operatives among 100 killed during #EndSARS – FG

…We stand by our report — CNN

By Our correspondents

The Federal Government has  threatened to sanction CNN over its trending report on the controversial Lekki Toll Gate shootings in the wake of the #EndSARS protests.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja at a media briefing, said CNN relied on social media videos for its report on the alleged shooting without verifying them.

“Such should earn the CNN a serious sanction for irresponsible reporting,” he said.

The Minister said contrary to that foreign news medium report, not a single family had come out to claim their family member was killed in what he called a “massacre without bodies”.

Mohammed said the sanctions imposed on some broadcast media stations in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests were justified and that the affected stations already paid their fines.

The minister said that two of the stations paid their fines in full, while the third paid a part of the fine, with an appeal for time to pay the balance.

Mohammed stressed that the fines imposed on the stations by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) were not only justified, but that the NBC was indeed lenient.

“In the aftermath of the #EndSARS crisis, the NBC fined three broadcast stations for using unverified and dangerous information from the social media.

“Commentators, many of whom didn’t even know why the NBC imposed the fine, rushed to allege an attempt to stifle free speech.

“Unknown to them, the stations themselves knew that they breached the Broadcast Code.

“It is sad to see the traditional media jettisoning the age-long gate-keeping process and instead rushing to rely on the free-wheeling social media, devoid of any gatekeeping, for news,’’ he said.

The minister also said it was imperative for the traditional media to authenticate information from the social media or from any source, for that matter, before publishing or broadcasting same.

He condemned the emerging trend in which traditional media freely used materials from social media sources without taking the pains to verify their authenticity.

“This is a dangerous trend that must be curbed, in the interest of media practitioners themselves, the profession and indeed the country,’’ he said.

Mohammed said if the NBC had wielded the big stick during the protest, some broadcast media organisations would have faced more severe sanctions than mere fines.

“Recall that an otherwise reputable broadcast media organisation had carried a fake report that the Ecumenical Centre in Abuja was on fire during the violence that followed the protest.

“Though the organisation in question later retracted the story, the kind of reprisal attack this could have sparked is better imagined.

“Also, another reputable broadcast media organisation featured a report that identified a maintenance worker atop a bank building overlooking the Lekki tollgate in Lagos as a sniper, leading to attacks that destroyed many of the bank’s branches.

“The organisations have not even been sanctioned for these terrible disinformation, yet rabble-rousers have latched on to the fines to make all sorts of baseless allegations,’’ he said

The NBC fined Channels Television, AIT and Arise TV N3 million each on Oct. 26 over their unprofessional coverage of the #EndSARS protest and the crises that followed it.

Acting Director-General of NBC, Prof Armstrong Idachaba, announced the sanctions at a news conference in Abuja.

43 security operatives among 100 killed during #EndSARS —FG

Minister of information, said 100 persons, including 43 security operatives, lost their lives during the #EndSARS crisis.

Mohammed, who disclosed said 196 policemen sustained injuries during the catastrophe.

He accused human rights organisations and some media houses of turning a blind eye to the violence which he said was driven by misinformation.

Thousands of Nigerians had thronged the streets and major roads to protest against police brutality under the #EndSARS movement.

As the campaign later metamorphosed into agitation against “bad governance”, suspected hoodlums later broke lose, looting properties and attacking police stations.

Mohammed said eight prisons were attacked during the crisis, “with 1,957 inmates set free and 31 staff injured.

“Six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed all over the country during the crisis,” he said.

“This is in addition to 196 policemen that were injured; 164 police vehicles that were destroyed and 134 police stations that were razed.

“Also, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Immigration Service all lost infrastructures, equipment and other valuables to attack by hoodlums during the crisis.

“The role of the human rights organisations, in particular, became a suspect after they simply ignored the brutal killing and maiming of security agents during the crisis, as well as the orgy of violence that left 57 civilians dead, 269private/corporate facilities burnt/looted/vandalized, 243 government facilities burnt/vandalized and 81 government warehouses looted, and instead continued to dwell on the bodiless and bloodless ‘massacre’ at Lekki Toll Gate.

“They did not see anything wrong in the public and private properties that were burnt or looted, neither did they see anything wrong in the fact that some of the businesses that were looted belonged to struggling young men and women.

“All they could see in their biased view of the whole situation was a hoax massacre.”

Lekki shooting: We stand by our report —CNN

However, CNN said it is standing by its report that soldiers used live bullets on #EndSARS protesters in  Lagos.

CNN on Thursday  said the report was carefully and meticulously researched.

The news outlet said the report is based on multiple witness account, adding that the army and police declined calls to respond to the investigation before the story was published.

“Our report1 was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it,” the statement read.

“The report was based on testimony from dozens of witnesses, and photos and video obtained and geolocated by CNN. It painted a picture of how members of the Nigerian army and the police shot at the crowd, killing at least one person and wounding dozens more.

“CNN verified photos and videos acquired from multiple eyewitnesses and protesters using timestamps and other data from the video files.

“Video footage shows soldiers who appear to be shooting in the direction of protesters. And accounts from eyewitnesses established that after the army withdrew, a second round of shooting happened later in the evening.

“Prior to publishing the report, CNN tried multiple times to elicit comment from the Nigerian army and police. A Lagos State police spokesman declined to comment because of an ongoing investigation.

“While a statement from the Lagos State government said that there would be no comment while a judicial tribunal was underway.”