#EndSARS: Minister mocks CNN over clarification of ‘massacre’ tweet

At a press conference on the violence that followed the EndSARS protests in Abuja, Information and Communication Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed said that social media was used to spread fake news and disinformation that catalyzed the violence witnessed in the whole country.

Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed has criticized Cable News Network (CNN) for showing panic over its reports of the Lekki Toll Gate incident by trying to clarify his tweet some 35 days later, where he denied that he ever attributed the death toll 38. to Amnesty International.

In a tacit admission that it wrongly reported the death toll at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, CNN on Thursday also stated that its Oct. 23 report on the incident did not make it clear that the death toll was due to protests. in all the country.

This marks a U-turn by CNN in its report on the alleged shooting of defiant #ENDSARS protesters at the toll plaza on the night of October 20, 2020.

On October 23, CNN reported: “At least 38 people were killed in Nigeria on Tuesday when the military opened fire on peaceful protesters. But the president did not address the carnage during his speech Thursday, drawing criticism from protesters who accuse him of not showing empathy and unifying the nation.

Yesterday, Mohammed, who has consistently disputed CNN’s accounts of the Oct. 20 Lekki incident, where soldiers allegedly fired at peaceful protesters, accused the Atlanta-based network of inaccuracy and unbalanced investigation.

He also shamed the organization for backing down in infamy in his desperate act to justify his report that protesters were massacred in Lagos.

The minister spoke at a stakeholder engagement with members of the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON) yesterday in Abuja.

He described Thursday’s CNN tweet as the clearest indication yet of his confusion over the Lekki Toll Gate incident, in which he tried to clarify his October 23 tweet saying he never attributed the 38 death toll to Amnesty International and added that the tweet also did not make clear that the death toll was from protests across the country.

He stated: “Commenters on the tweet tried to redirect CNN to the topic: which is their October 23 tweet saying ‘At least 38 people were killed in Nigeria on Tuesday (October 20) when the military opened fire on peaceful protesters. This is very unequivocal and CNN is exhibiting panic trying to clear up its tweet some 35 days later! Rather than panic, CNN should confess that it made a serious mistake with the Lekki Toll Gate incident. “

He vilified CNN for relying on unauthenticated video to carry out an investigation, describing it as worrisome that an international broadcaster like this one would change victim numbers so casually without a credible source.

“That is why we have written a letter to CNN asking it to use its own internal mechanism to investigate its investigation. We have received an acknowledgment of our letter, saying that the letter has been forwarded to the CNN editorial team. We await the outcome of your investigation, but that is without prejudice to what we decide to do as a government.

“We will not sit back and allow any news organization, local or foreign, to set Nigeria on fire with irresponsible and unprofessional reporting. CNN did not have a reporter or cameraman at Lekki Toll Gate on the night in question, yet it emphatically reported a false story. In contrast, the BBC which had a reporter and editor on the ground reported that soldiers fired into the air, not protesters. I’d rather believe the person on the ground than the person who is thousands of miles away, ”Mohammed said.

He also called Nigerian broadcasting stations over what he called their inability to take the lead in reporting the Lekki toll incident.

It condemned BON for outsourcing its function to a foreign organization, “which does not even have correspondents on the ground, to transmit misleading information to the world.”

The minister challenged BON stakeholders that all imposters that emerged in the wake of the federal government’s dispute with CNN over the broadcast of the protests should be part of their review of coverage of the entire crisis.

He also urged broadcasting stations to avoid using unverified information from social media, as it is fraught with dangers, and emphasized that the violence that resulted from the EndSARS protest hijacking was catalyzed by fake news and misinformation, which was spread like wildfire on social media.

He praised the security agencies, particularly the police and soldiers, for their professionalism and restraint, which helped save many lives during the protests, and noted that even in the face of attacks and provocation, they acted within their rules of engagement. .

The minister regretted that reports from the EndSARS protest were biased against security agencies, saying that only a few stations highlighted attacks and killings of security agents, as well as destruction of public and private property.

He said: “For the record, six soldiers and 37 policemen died across the country during the crisis. In addition, 196 policemen were injured; 164 police vehicles were destroyed and 134 police stations burned.

“The murder of the policemen was particularly gruesome and cowardly. However, human rights organizations and the media have not paid the attention it deserved. Rather, they have remained obsessed with the alleged massacre. It seems that human rights do not matter for men and women in uniform. This is regrettable and must be corrected. Note that the violence also left 57 civilians dead, 269 private / corporate facilities burned / looted / vandalized, 243 government facilities burned / vandalized, and 81 government warehouses looted.

The international cable network had suggested on October 23 that a massacre occurred without any reasonable evidence, when it claimed that at least 38 people were killed when soldiers fired at some peaceful protesters in the toll plaza.

However, nearly five weeks after its first report on the incident, the network pushed back the claim with Thursday’s statement.

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