By Kazeem Ugbodaga
The Cable News Network (CNN) has said it stood by its story that the Nigerian military used live bullets on #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate, killing at least one, with dozens others injured.
Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed at a news conference in Abuja on Thursday rubbished CNN’s report, saying the station should be sanctioned for unverified reports.
“CNN stands by its investigation,” a company spokesperson said.
“Our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it,” the spokesperson said via email.
“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,” it said.
Prior to publishing the report, CNN said it tried multiple times to elicit comment from the Nigerian army and police, adding that a Lagos State police spokesman declined to comment because of an ongoing investigation.
It said a statement from the Lagos State government said that there would be no comment while a judicial tribunal was underway.
On Thursday, Lai Mohammed said: “I watched CNN report yesterday and I must tell you that it reinforces the misinformation that has been going around and it is a blatantly irresponsible and poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international media.
“CNN touted its report as an exclusive investigative report but 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.
“CNN said ‘the videos obtained by CNN’ without saying where from or whether it is authenticated. Were CNN reporters and cameramen at Lekki Toll Gate? The answer is no.
“On what basis were they reporting? Relied on 2nd or 3rd hand information and presenting it as CNN’s investigation. Why didn’t CNN balance its story by showing the compelling testimony of Brig. Gen. Taiwo before the Judicial Panel of Inquiry?
“This one-sided reporting is not 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 misinformation used were trending during the #EndSARS crisis.”
The minister made reference to a report by BBC’s Damilola Banjo who was at the Lekki Toll Gate and who confirmed in his report that “soldiers were indeed at the Lekki Toll Gate, but they shot sporadically into the air and not at the protesters.”
“But the CNN that was not at the scene reported otherwise.
‘If CNN had done its investigation properly, it would have known how fake news and disinformation were trending during the EndSARS crisis”, Mohammed said.
“In airing its so-called investigative report, CNN conveniently forgot that on Oct. 23rd 2020, it tweeted, from its verified twitter handle, that the military killed 38 people when it opened fire on peaceful protesters on Tuesday, Oct. 20th 2020.
“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.