By Ehichioya Ezomon
THE Cable News Network (CNN) prides itself as the leading purveyor of fast, accurate and reliable news reports. That’s why it crows: “This is CNN. More people get their news from CNN than any other source.”
This may be a matter of fact because of CNN’s reach with its reportage, a niche carved from beaming major news events to millions of homes since its debut in the 1980s.
The network, based in Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America, with broadcasting centers and hundreds of affiliate partners around the world, also cherishes “Facts First.”
It has striven to uphold this creed, especially with fierce competition from other cable stations, and the emergence of social media with misinformation, disinformation and outright falsehood and “fake news.”
But CNN isn’t infallible; it has burnt its fingers in attempts to either get news faster to its millions of audiences, or when doing “in-depth” coverage and analyses on volatile issues.
At such times, it disregards, perhaps not deliberately, to observe the tenet it cherishes and preaches: “Facts First,” as facts matter to the network and the viewers it serves.
CNN’s “fact-finding” approach to journalism and reportage is challenged with the widely publicized shooting and “killings” at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, Nigeria, on October 20, 2020.
The network’s seeming second-hand reporting on the shooting, in the wake of #EndSARS protests that gripped Nigeria for weeks, was anything but accurate, reliable and factual in all material particular.
Even as it states, “we stand by our reporting,” aftermath of the Nigerian Government querying of CNN’s reporting, the network has been unable to impeach the government and the Army rebuttal.
Nigeria’s Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has criticized CNN’s “one-sided, biased and unprofessional reporting” labeling it as the world’s first “Bloodless and Bodiless Massacre.”
Mohammed’s characterization is apt, as there’ve been no reports of actual deaths from the “massacre” nor has anybody claimed they had or knew others that lost persons to the shooting.
Admitted that CNN didn’t “rush to publish the report,” yet, it’s a stretch for the network to insist that “it ensured due processes were followed, which included thorough research.” If this were so, why the discrepancies in its reporting: from 38 persons to one person killed?
CNN didn’t add substance to the Lekki event, but only to further inflame passion, and worsen a bad situation. Without its reporters for on-the-spot reporting, the network regurgitated what’s in the public domain, based, as it affirmed, on “photos and videos acquired from multiple eyewitnesses and protesters.”
Had CNN done a genuine investigation and reported the truth, the network’s figures of the dead wouldn’t be shifty. It’s a mind-boggling, sensational and hatchet reportage!
That is where the Nigerian Government and the Army got CNN: Where did it conjure the 38 people killed at Lekki, if the soldiers used blank and not live bullets during the “massacre?”
CNN’s explanation, that “photos and videos acquired… were verified using timestamps and other data from the video files,” is designed to possibly sway an unsuspecting public.
Nigerians, ever so wary of what comes out of official quarters, were even skeptical of the information CNN has clothed as “reporting… carefully and meticulously researched,” hence, the overwhelming criticism of the network on social media.
To save face, CNN came with a clarification of at least 56 people dead across Nigeria since the #EndSARS protests began on October 8, “with 38 killed across the country on Tuesday (October 20) alone, according to human rights group Amnesty International.”
It was no longer 38 killed at Lekki in its “carefully and meticulously researched” prior reporting, but an attribution to “human rights group Amnesty International” that has tangled with the Army due to its “disputed reporting” on the Army’s operations?
CNN has to convince Nigerians that it didn’t deliberately push a “false narrative” on the Lekki shooting. How does “one person” killed rhyme with CNN’s banner headline, “How A Bloody Night Of Bullets And Brutality Quashed A Young Protest Movement?”
Rather than hanging on tenuously to the Army’s admittance, through Brigadier-General Ahmed Taiwo, the Commander of Nigeria’s 81 Military Intelligence Brigade that the soldiers went to Lekki with live bullets, as a confirmation of its reporting, CNN should admit its sloppy job, and apologize to the Nigerian Government, Army, Nigerians and the global community.
Certainly, the handling of the Lekki shooting by the Nigerian Government gave rise to the likes of CNN preying on assumed gullibility of its viewers to consume wholesale its news items.
The government didn’t do the first thing first, or the wrong thing entirely. It shouldn’t have deployed the Army to quell the protests. T didn’t matter if the soldiers were professional, and shot into the air, whether with blank bullets, as the Army claimed, or live bullets, as CNN reported.
In the Lekki episode, the government wasn’t sure what to admit: was there a presence of the Army; was there shooting; were blank bullets or live bullets used?
As the government joined the Army to deny its involvement in the shooting, Taiwo said they didn’t have the facts of what transpired at the protest venue?
Yet, in trying to cover its flaws, the government has iterated the number of deaths, as reported by CNN, human rights bodies, and the protesters of #EndSARS campaign.
It’s time the government rejigged its information management and kept at bay the nosy CNNs of this world from telling its story.
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria. 08033078357. Twitter: @EhichioyaEzomon WhatsApp: 08033078357.