The Federal Government of Nigeria has written CNN over its report on Lekki shooting.
The letter which dated November 23, 2020, and titled ‘Re: How a bloody night of bullets quashed a young protest movement’,
“Our attention has been drawn to an ‘investigation’ by CNN, entitled ‘How a Bloody Night of Bullets Quashed a Young Protest Movement’ and aired on 18 Nov. 2020, in which the international news organization said it had ”uncovered that Nigerian security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters” at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, Nigeria, during the #EndSARS protest.
“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 organization.
“In the first instance, the report did not live up to the most basic of the core principles of journalism – balance and fairness. According to the website www.ethics.journalists.org, ”balance and fairness are classic buzzwords of journalism ethics: In objective journalism, stories must be balanced in the sense of attempting to present all sides of a story. Fairness means that a journalist should strive for accuracy and truth in reporting, and not slant a story so a reader draws the reporter’s desired conclusion.
“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 did not speak to one officials Nigeria’s federal government. While CNN said there was not 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 foe the Federal Government of Nigeria, yet did not say that she even tried the Minister. It is therefore strange, to say the least, that she would rush to air such an important ‘investigation’ without getting the government’s side. In other words, Nima, and by extension CNN, breached the most basic of the core principles of journalism – balance and fairness.
“Another serous breach by CNN, in its ‘investigation’ is that the network relied heavily on unverified footages it harvested from social media. Neither its reporter nor cameraman was there, but it relied on eyewitnesses. Well, this is fraught with danger. While experts say eyewitness testimony is a potent form of evidence, it is also subject to unconscious memory distortions and biases. Unlike CNN, a reporter from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Pidgin Service, Damilola Banjo, was at Lekki Toll Gate on the night in question, and was quoted as saying soldiers shot sporadically into the air and not at the protesters – a direct contradiction of the position taken by CNN who relied on second and third-hand information.
“In airing its ‘investigative’ report, CNN conveniently forgot that on Oct. 23rd 2020, it emphatically twitted, from its verified twitter handle, that the military killed 38 people when it opened fire on peaceful protesters on Tuesday, Oct. 20th 2020. Almost a month later, the same CNN – after supposedly exhaustive investigation – is now reporting only one death from what the world was made to believe was a massacre. Is CNN not embarrassed by this sharp climbdown ? Has CNN owned up to this and apologized for its faux paz ?
“It is also interesting that while CNN obtained footage showing when the vehicles carrying soldiers left the barracks and arrived at the Lekki Toll Gate, it could not obtain any footage showing the bodies of those supposedly killed in the ‘massacre’. After all, forensic ballistic experts will most likely testify that firing military grade weapons into a crowd will not leave anyone needing a microscope to look for blood or bodies at the scene.
“CNN has said that 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, as we have pointed out that the organization relied heavily on manipulated social media videos. This resorts to an escapist cliche seems more like a face-saving measure by an otherwise respectable news network caught in the blinding glare of ‘fake news and disinformation’ headlamps. Or how else does one explain the arrogance defence of an international news network that would not even respect the most basic principle of journalism ?
“One of CNN’s star eyewitness in its ‘investigative’ reporting is DJ Switch’s story on the Lekki Toll Gate shooting has changed several times. From claiming she counted 78 bodies of protesters who were supposedly killed by soldiers on the night of the Lekki Toll Gate incident, she twice, at least, changed the casualty figure from 78 to 15 and then to 7 , without a shred of evidence. CNN cannot pretend not to know that for anyone to act as a witness, his or her credibility must be unimpeachable. DJ Switch’s credibility does not meet that threshold…..”