By Luminous Jannamike
Some civil society organizations, CSOs, on Thursday, described the threat to sanction US-based media outlet, CNN, over its report on last month’s shooting of #EndSARS protesters in Lekki Lagos by suspected security operatives as “sentimental and laughable.”
The CSOs, which spoke in separate interviews with Vanguard in Abuja, said there were better ways the Federal Government could have presented its case to the public, if it felt that the CNN report was biased and unfair in its account of the Lekki shooting than resorting to threats of sanction.
So, they advised the government not to waste its time seeking sanctions against a foreign media outlet over a matter that is already in the public domain.
Rather, the CSOs urged the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to drop the use of coercive language and focus on convincing Nigerians that the government was on the side of the people and acted in the best interest of the nation.
Legal Counsel to #RevolutionNow Movement, Inibehe Effiong, said: “The Federal Government’s threat against CNN is brutum fulmen (an empty threat).
“Lai Mohammed is confusing CNN with NTA. He should stop comical behaviour. No serious person will pay attention to his threat.
“These so-called progressives who came to power on a dubious mantra of change have turned Nigeria into a lawless country.
“The international community is not ignorant of the campaign of falsehood promoted by the Nigerian Army and people like Lai Mohammed on the Lekki Tollgate incident.
“Honest people know the truth of what happened. The desperate attempt by the Buhari regime to bury the truth, crush dissent and elevate tyranny to a political ideology will eventually fail. We implore CNN to ignore him.”
Similarly, the convener of Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, said: “It is quite laughable. To be frank, we want to believe Lai Mohammed was not referring to the CNN in America, because even President Donald Trump has not been able sanctioned that media outfit in spite of all they have done to him.
“Now we ask; is it, then, the Nigerian Minister of Information and culture that would sanction CNN? Does Lai Mohammed think the U.S. is Nigeria, where social media can be censored simply because those in government want it shut down? Does our government think America is a banana republic where elected and appointed public officials can carry-on with impunity unchecked?
“With all that CNN has done to the Trump administration, there has been no threat, no harassment, and no intimidation from the U.S. government. That’s the beauty of democracy.
“It’s only a government made up of people who see themselves as gods that would not want to be held accountable to the people that would contemplate sanctioning the media for doing its job.
“It’s unfortunate that those even seeking sanctions for the media are the chief authors of fake news about the past administration, the decimation of Boko Haram terrorists and the critics of the present government.
“Therefore, no Nigerian should take Lai Mohammed seriously. Let Nigerians completely disregard the threat to sanctions CNN. Instead, Nigerians should thank CNN for getting involved and exposing the rot in the country. We ate using this medium to call on other foreign media outlets to also help us highlight other cases of impunity, injustice, the shrinking civic space, and attack on the freedom of the press by the government.”
On his part, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said: “When you have some not-so-serious people occupying government offices this is the funny response they give to investigative reports of this magnitude and depth.
“They are actually undermining the government’s credibility in the international scene with such threat to sanction a media company limited e CNN.
“CNN is not a parastatal under the control of the Nigerian government. So, it’s a very ridiculous and reckless threat. There are better ways to present a credible and unbiased response if the government believed that the CNN report was not more accurate rather than throwing tantrums and issuing threats.
“We can say that some of the current officials in government are not prepared to do their work in the best interest of the Nigerian people. They are rather concerned with how to loot and steal public money. So, the real intention could be to loot the public treasury in the name of picking a fight with CNN.”
Also speaking, Mr. Raphael Adebayo, the Convener of Free Nigeria Movement, said: “In proper context, the government’s threat to sanction CNN may either be viewed as the barking of a toothless bulldog or as the desperate lamentation of a regime that has been hemmed-in by its own vicious crimes against humanity, for which it must now be held to account.
“The regime has nothing else to offer Nigerians. So, we advise President Buhari to resign or be impeached by the National Assembly because of the reckless spilling of innocent blood under his watch as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.”
Meanwhile, the Global Peace Foundation appealed to the Federal Government to seek ways of healing the pains felt by the victims of the Lekki mass shooting rather than making inflammatory remarks.
The Country Director of GPFN, Joseph Hayab, said: “Threatening to sanction any media and most importantly an international medium like CNN may not be a good idea.
“Those making those threats do not even have any reliable structure to challenge the media organization that they are threatening to sanction.
“Already, Nigeria is being perceived as a country that suppresses the media. So, the current threat against CNN can only further put us in bad light.
“In this era of social media, a wise government will rather work hard to convince its people with her own side of the story instead of using coercive words to threaten people or organization about a matter that is on the public domain.
“GPFN is therefore appealing to the Federal Government to toe the path of dialogue and public enlightenment so that the people would understand that its position was in their best interest.”