Cable News Network (CNN), Inc. has declined to make its team of reporters available to the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution of Victims of SARS Related Abuses and the Lekki Toll Gate shootings.
It objected to a Witness Summons by the panel requiring the reporters to appear before it Saturday, December 12, 2020, to give evidence on their reportage of the #EndSARS Lekki shooting.
The law firm representing the United States-based international news outfit in Nigeria, Messrs. Olumide Babalola LP, yesterday said the Tribunal lacks jurisdiction to summon CNN staff since they were not in Nigeria.
According to Mr. Babalola, he had written to, and the panel had taken note of the grounds of CNN’s objection and excused the company from complying with the summons.
But the panel told The Nation that it never excluded CNN from appearing before it and that the summons was still valid and pending.
On November 19, the media organisation published an investigation alleging that the Nigerian Army used live bullets on protesters during its intervention in the #EndSARS protest at Lekki in Lagos State.
Responding to the publication, the Federal Government and the army tagged the investigation as fake news, threatening to sanction the broadcaster for “irresponsible reporting.”
On November 23, in a letter addressed to CNN’s VP Communications Jonathan Hawkins, Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, said the report did not just fall short of journalistic standards but reinforced the disinformation making the rounds on the issue.
CNN issued a statement saying it stood by its report.
The network on November 14, did a second report with more footage, which it said showed soldiers shooting at unarmed protesters on October 20, 2020.
The CNN report was referenced at the panel by the Commander of the 81 Division, Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Brig.-Gen. Ahmed Taiwo, during his defence of the army’s conduct at Lekki on October 20.
Taiwo contrasted CNN’s report with an opposing one by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and declared the former as false.
The CNN report was also referenced by #EndSARS protesters’ counsel Mr. Adesina Ogunlana in the course of the panel’s proceedings, necessitating the tribunal to summon the producers of the report.
In a statement yesterday, Babalola said the panel summoned CNN and its reporters on November 28 “to give evidence on their reportage of the EndSARS Lekki shooting.”
He said: “Upon service of the summons on CNN’s Lawyers, Messrs. Olumide Babalola LP, the international news outfit instructed their lawyers to file an objection on the ground that the Panel lacks jurisdiction to summon them since they are not in Nigeria.”
The objection dated 4th December 2020, was filed at the tribunal on December 9, 2020.
Babalola said: “The Objectors herewith place it on record that they were not at all material times and still not at the time of filing this objection, within the geographical territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
They do not have any physical or business presence in Nigeria and, by extension, are outside the territorial jurisdiction of this honourable Tribunal.