The Federal Government, yesterday, demanded sanctions against an international media organisation, Cable News Network (CNN), over its report on the shooting and alleged killing of some unarmed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate Plaza in Lagos.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made the call at a media briefing in Abuja, said CNN engaged in incredible sensationalism and did a great disservice to itself and to journalism in the said report and deserved to be sanctioned. The CNN had, on Wednesday, aired a report on the Lekki shooting incident, showing graphic details of how some soldiers from Bonny Camp, a nearby military base, stormed the Lekki Tollgate, venue of a civil protest and opened fire on unarmed protesters.
The report showed satellite images of the movement of troops, bullet shells littering the ground as well as bodies soaked in blood, thereby putting a lie to the official narrative that no one died in the incident.
The minister expressed disappointment that CNN, which had neither a reporter nor a cameraman at the scene of the incident, aired a report with pictures from unverified sources. Mohammed, who described the CNN’s report as jaundiced, accused the media organisation of not doing a thorough investigation into the incident be fore packaging its report.
“I must tell you that it reinforces the disinformation that is going round and it is blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organisation. “CNN engaged in incredible sensationalism and did a great disservice to itself and to journalism.
“In the first instance, CNN, which touted its report as an exclusive investigative report, 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 merely said the videos were ‘obtained by CNN,’ without saying wherefrom and whether or not it authenticated them. Were CNN reporters and cameramen at the Lekki Toll Gate that evening? If the answer is no, on what basis were they reporting? Relying on second or third hand information and presenting it as ‘CNN Investigation’? Why didn’t CNN balance its story by showing the compelling testimony of Brig.-Gen. Taiwo before the Judicial Panel in Lagos?
Is this onesided reporting what is expected from an international media organisation or any serious news organisation? If CNN had done its investigation properly, it would have known how fake news and disinformation were trending during the #EndSARS crisis,” he said. Mohammed accused CNN of turning a blind eye to the fact that six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed in unprovoked attacks during the #EndARS protests.
The minister insisted that the military did not shoot at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, but rather fired blank ammunition in the air and no lives were lost at the scene of the incident.
He challenged anyone who knows anyone who was killed at Lekki Toll Gate to head to the judicial panel and tender conclusive evidence of such murder. Apparently foreclosing the outcome of the panel’s investigation, Mohammed said that the Federal Government was very satisfied with the role played by the security agencies, especially the military and the police, all through the #EndSARS crisis. “The security agents were professional and measured in their response.
Even when their lives were at stake, they exercised uncommon restraint. Their professionalism and measured response saved many lives and properties. For example, despite arresting hordes of looters during the violence in Lagos, the army treated them humanely and even counselled them before handing them over to the police.
“The same cannot be said of those who unleashed mayhem on the security agents, killing and maiming them, sometimes in such a barbaric manner that is unprecedented in these parts,” he said.
The Federal Government, Mohammed said, will not accept a situation in which some human rights bodies and media organisations will continue to harass the security agencies over their roles during the crisis. According to him, soldiers, policemen and other security agents deserved commendation, not condemnation, because they are human beings too and that their own rights matter.
The Federal Government, Mohammed said, was not only responsive and responsible in meeting the demands of the #EndSARS protesters, but irresponsible use of social media by some unscrupulous persons aggravated the violence that erupted in the wake of the protests and helped to precipitate the violence. He said that while government had no plans to shut down the internet, it will work with stakeholders to regulate the social media to curb abuse.
“Those who use the social media responsibly have nothing to fear, but those who abuse it have every reason to be worried, as no responsible government will stand by and allow a few unscrupulous elements to set the country ablaze,” he said. Mohammed lambasted DJ Switch (Obianuju Catherine Udeh), one of the protesters who was at the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of the alleged massacre and who became the source of the earliest live feeds of the alleged massacre.
He described DJ Switch as “one of the purveyors of fake news and disinformation” during the #End- SARS crisis. The minister said that even though DJ Switch claimed to have authentic evidence of mass killings, she has not presented whatever evidence she may have to the judicial panel investigating the incident, but has rather chosen to escape from the country under the pretext that her life was in danger.
Mohammed said her life could not have been in danger as neither the military nor the police had declared her wanted, adding that the lady was so desperate for asylum in another country, that she had to resort to blatant falsehood to tarnish the image of her country. The minister appealed to the international community, especially countries that had made hasty judgements on the basis of fake news and disinformation emanating from the #EndSARS crisis, to endeavour to seek and find the truth about the issue.