One of the things my years of empirical studies have taught me is never to depend on media houses for unbiased information. Unless I am seeking people’s opinions or perspectives regarding an issue, I steer away from media reports. As absurd as this might sound, it should be noted that media owners are usually affiliated to political parties, or are sympathetic to certain causes. Hence, their reports usually tilt towards exaggerating or undermining issues to favour their affiliates. Nevertheless, several lawsuits have reduced the rate at which media houses report false information but it has not yet been totally eradicated.
For reasons best known to Cable News Network (CNN), they picked Nigeria as one of the places ripe for speculation and spread of unverified information. Without considering the implication of their actions, the media house speculated that tens of people were shot dead at the Lekki Toll Gate incident, which happened on October 20, 2020. On October 23, 2020, CNN Africa used their Twitter handle, @CNNAfrica, to insinuate that more than 38 persons were killed by soldiers at Lekki Toll Gate on that said night.
In their tweet, CNN Africa stated, “At least 38 persons were killed in Nigeria on Tuesday when the military opened fire on peaceful protesters. But the President failed to address the carnage during his speech on Thursday, drawing criticism from protesters who accuse him of failing to show empathy and unify the nation.”
Of course, as expected, many Nigerians fell for this because, to them, CNN is a reputable media house that cannot report unverified and unverifiable news. But unfortunately for CNN, many Nigerians revisited that tweet when it released itsr “exclusive” investigation report that did not only present old videos that have been under debate for long but also failed to provide evidence of the killings. In this “mind-blowing” report, CNN could only “prove” that one person died after the Nigeria Army shot into a crowd of more than five thousand protesters at close range with live ammunition. Of course, they must have realised that Nigerians are not stupid as the world made them seem because people started making jokes with the irrationality of live bullets failing to slaughter people in their thousands. Even you would agree that it is impossible to shoot AK47 live ammunition into a crowd at close range without people flying straight to hell in their numbers. But this video could prove no such thing.
Anyway, after the release of this “exclusive” report by CNN, some well-meaning Nigerians began to ask for the CNN satellite video that shows the killing of more than 38 persons as was insinuated by the organisation on 23rd October. When it became apparent that CNN had been shoved to a tight corner because it shot itself on the foot, it became defensive. Instead of providing evidence on the killing of people at the toll gate, they tried to prove that the video provided from the Lekki Toll Gate CCTV was doctored. They also tried to justify their claim by saying that Brigadier-General Taiwo has proved, at the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry, that men of the Nigeria Army went to Lekki Toll Gate with live ammunition. Well, they must have found out this latter claim did not prove the killing of people because soldiers would not have been deployed without live bullets to protect themselves and other citizens in case an assault happens.
It became apparent that CNN has no evidence to back up their claims when on 26 November, they took to their CNN Africa Twitter page again to twist their initial claim on the number of people killed on 20 October at Lekki Toll Gate. In this latest tweet, they said, “Clarification: This tweet from October 23 did not attribute the death toll from protests in Nigeria to Amnesty International. The tweet also did not make it clear that the death toll was for protests across the country.” In the news report attached to this tweet, it says that, according to Amnesty International, 38 people were “killed across the country on Tuesday alone…” In order words, these people were not killed at the Lekki Toll Gate “massacre”.
With this, it has become quite glaring that CNN had no evidence in the first place but went ahead to release defamatory information about the Nigerian government and the Nigeria Army. They knew the tension in the country during that period but they sent out more malicious information that could intensify the uprising. They knew that Nigerians believed so much in anything “foreign” but it didn’t deter them from dispensing these lies into the country. They seemed bent on seeing Nigeria burned down to the ground.
Today, CNN has caused a lot of damages to the image of the country. They incited more people into causing harm to others. People lost their lives, properties and sources of income because of the fake news that flew about during that period. Peace was disturbed and the economy became more destabilised; all thanks to the bearers of false information.
No matter what CNN does, no matter how it tries to manipulate information, it owes Nigeria and Nigerians an apology. It should look into its reports on ENDSARS protest and the ensuing violence and publicly retract anyone that has no objective and well verified evidence to back it up. They should carry out proper investigative journalism and stop using subjective materials in issues as delicate as this. Hopefully, when CNN learns its lessons, other media houses will follow suit.