The Nigerian government has continued its attacks on CNN after it reported on the shooting of protesters in the country, sayingthe American channel has been “grasping at straws in desperation” to justify its “inaccurate and unbalanced” coverage.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said in his latest tirade that the use of “unverified videos” and “non-adherence to the basic tenets of journalism” had landed the broadcaster in “trouble”.
CNN had earlier published its investigation on the Lekki shootings based on witness reports and videos that were geolocated from various protesters.
The Nigerian government wrote to the television to complain, demanding a review of the report.
On Thursday, CNN clarified the Lekki death toll it tweeted on October 23 which said that “at least 38 people were killed.”
In its clarification, the news network said the tweet “did not make it clear that the death toll was for protests across the country”.
At a meeting on Friday with members of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) in Abuja, Mr Mohammed said, “since we sent our letter, CNN has been grasping at straws in desperation, to justify its inaccurate and unbalanced investigation.”
“But in the process, it is sinking more and more into professional infamy. Yesterday, November 26 that is, in the clearest indication yet of its confusion over the Lekki Toll Gate incident, CNN tried to clarify its tweet of October 23 by saying it never attributed the death toll of 38 to Amnesty International and that the tweet also did not make it clear that the death toll was for protests across the country.”
Mr Mohammed said CNN’s tweet about the death toll was ambiguous.
“Instead of engaging in such panic, CNN should come clean by admitting that it goofed badly on the Lekki Toll Gate incident.
“But the big lesson to draw from CNN’s faux pas is that it magnifies the failure or inadequacy of our own broadcast organisations.
“In the wake of our spat with CNN, people are asking: Why didn’t our own broadcast stations take the lead in reporting the incident at Lekki? Why didn’t they take the lead in presenting an authentic narrative? Why must we allow the foreign broadcast stations, some of which didn’t even have correspondents on the ground, to dictate the pace, thus misleading the world?
“These are questions begging for answers and I think for BON, this must form part of their review of the coverage of the whole crisis.
Mr Mohammed restated his call for the regulation of social media which he claimed was used in the protest to guide arsonists and looters to certain properties, both public and private.
“This brings me to the issue of social media regulation. You must have heard about the hoopla this issue has generated in the media.
“Well, I want to confirm that we will definitely act to ensure the responsible use of social media. You may call that regulation.
“But that is not the same as stifling press freedom or free speech. No. Fake news and disinformation are not the same as free speech. This government has no plan to stifle free speech, neither do we have any intention of shutting down the internet.
“Social media has come to stay, and those who use it responsibly have nothing to fear.
“But we cannot give the same assurance to those who weaponise social media. By the way, the issue of regulating social media content is generating debate around the world, so Nigeria is not an exception,” he said.
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