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FG petitions CNN over report on Lekki shootings

The Federal Government has petitioned Cable News Network (CNN) over the Lekki toll gate shootings report, the government accused the international news network of violating the most basic of the core principles of journalism – balance and fairness” in his report on Lekki shootings during the #ENDSARS protests on October 20, 2020.

The government said the investigation report was inaccurate and capable of pitching Nigerians against themselves.

In a petition letter dated November 23 2020 entitled ‘Re: How a bloody night of bullets quashed a young protest movement’ signed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the Federal demanded remediation from CNN management.

The letter was addressed to VP Communication in CNN Centre Atlanta, Georgia, Jonathan Hawkins, VP (Communications) in CNN Centre Atlanta, Georgia.

It reads: “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 organisation.

“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 official of Nigeria’s federal government. While CNN said there was no 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 for the Federal Government of Nigeria, yet did not say that she even tried to reach the Minister.

“It is therefore strange, to say the least, that she would rush to air such an important ‘investigation’ report 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 serious breach by CNN, in its ‘investigation’, is that the network relied heavily on unverified footages it harvested from social media.

“CNN was not present at the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of the incident. 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 the 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.”

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