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Authorities Threaten To Sanction CNN Over ‘Biased’ Reports In India

India’s News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has threatened to sanction television station, CNN News 18, an affiliate of Cable News Network (CNN) International over what it described as “biased” and “misleading coverage” of farmers’ protest in the country.

NBSA is an independent nine-member body set up by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) for self-regulation of 24X7 news channels that are part of NBA. It functions both as a watchdog and grievance redressal body.

Farmers in northern India have been protesting farm reforms since they were first introduced in September. They said the reforms are against their interest.

The governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has denied that the reforms would affect the farmers’ income but the farmers say there is no guarantee that it won’t happen.

In a report on Thursday, CNN News 18 questioned the motive of the protesting farmers.

Reacting on Friday, the NBSA accused the broadcaster of airing “an extremely biased and inaccurate broadcast.”

In a letter signed by the Compliance Officer, NBSA, Kshipra Jatana, the authority rejected the station’s editorial assumption that protesting farmers were being misled.

It also accused CNN News 18 of “parroting” the government’s side and not attempting to balance the coverage by hearing the side of the disgruntled farmers.

The NBSA, therefore, asked the broadcaster to clarify its stand and proffer an explanation. The authority said if there’s no response within the next 7 days, it would proceed with legal and regulatory action against the channel for “biased and manipulative coverage.”

These accusations echo those of the Federal Government of Nigeria which has accused CNN of “irresponsible” reporting on the shooting incident at Lekki Toll Gate on the night of October 20, 2020.

In a report last week, the broadcaster said it found out that soldiers of the Nigerian Army opened live ammunition on unarmed protesters despite the army’s claims that its men only fired blank ammunition into the air. It also established that one person died at the toll gate.

On Monday, the Nigerian Government addressed a letter to CNN’s VP, Communications, Mr. Jonathan Hawkins.

In the letter signed by Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the government accused the American medium of reinforcing disinformation and engaging in “a poor piece of journalistic work.”

It argued that CNN was not fair in its reportage because it failed to reach the Federal Government before publication although the medium claimed that it reached out to army and Lagos State authorities but was referred to the Judicial Panel of Inquiry constituted to investigate the incident. However, the Federal Government argued that the media outfit should have reached out to its officials.

The government also accused the broadcaster of “relying heavily” on “unverified footages it harvested from social media.”

The Federal Government threatened that it reserves the right to take any action within its laws to prevent CNN from “aggravating the #EndSARS crisis with unprofessional, irresponsible, one-sided, inciting and sensational reporting that is capable of pitching Nigerians against themselves and setting the country on fire.”

On Thursday night, CNN clarified that its October 23 tweet on the shooting incident’s death toll did not attribute the numbers to human rights group, Amnesty International.

The network had reported that “at least 38 people” died during the incident.

The media outlet, quoting Amnesty International (AI), had also claimed that at least 56 people died across the country since the protest commenced as of October 22.

But in its clarification, it said the rights group was not its source. It also said its tweet did not make it clear that the death toll was for protests across the country although its report said “38 killed across the country on Tuesday [night of the shooting incident] alone.”

“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,” the broadcaster wrote.

However, on its website, CNN identified AI as the source of the information on the casualty figures even if it didn’t in the tweet.

“At least 56 people have died across Nigeria since the #EndSARS protests began on October 8, with 38 killed across the country on Tuesday alone, according to human rights group Amnesty International,” the report on its website reads.

The clarification and inconsistencies have drawn criticisms from several Nigerians who demanded the source of the “38 people” who were allegedly killed at the toll gate.

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