Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Fact or Fiction" by Kome Ajegbo

Kome is a student at Stanford University, and she is a member of The Afro Beat. She sent us this link to a This Day newspaper article on Friday - Its really worth having a look at, if you can.

But for the lazy ones amongst us ;-P here is a snippet of MEND's response to the CNN documentary aired last week.

"On Monday January 22, 2007, we were approached by Mr. Jeff Koinange... He requested we stage some scenes for a very important CNN programme which was supposed to air in the first week of February. We stated clearly we would not be disposed to fit into his tight schedule. Our struggle is much more to us than parading before everyone willing to film fighters.... What CNN has presented as the truth to its unsuspecting viewers, is a collection of thugs, pirates and bunkerers put together by Jeff Koinange and CNN to meet up with the deadline given to Mr. Koinange by his editors in CNN. It is far from the truth. The band of criminals paraded by CNN as MEND have nothing to do with MEND... It is astonishing that a network of high repute such as CNN would descend this low in its search for a sensational story. We are reluctant to release our correspondence with Mr. Koinange but will circulate this if our claims are refuted."

We asked Kome to share her response to this turn of events, with The Afro Beat, and she kindly agreed to do so.


Fact or Fiction

Whenever I hear of a crisis, disaster or anything with the title "breaking news", my knee jerk reaction is to tune into CNN or Sky News. Not because I have been told that they are the best, but because I believe that they are the best at what they do. Yes there is a difference between the two - the difference between telling a story first and articulately, versus telling the story a little later without having to make any revisions to it. CNN falls into the first category for me because I like facts as quickly as possible, but I often have to chew through the sometimes-outlandish opinions to decipher my own.

After watching the CNN documentary on the Niger-Delta last week, my reaction on hearing the analysis of the MEND solution, left me feeling rather dejected - not because Nigeria was once again warranting publicity (good or bad... this case is debatable), but because we as a country have left many of our citizens to lead such desperate and pathetic lives.

I didn’t for a second doubt the authenticity of the footage of the MEND militants or of the Niger-Delta region, but as usual I was very critical of the view points expressed.

Two days later, I read an article in This Day Newspapers, expressing disgust and dismay at the false portrayal of the MEND organization by CNN. The allegation that the footage was staged at the request of CNN boggles my mind, and has left me questioning not only CNN, but the indigenous Nigerians who were a part of this folly.

To what lengths will media corporations, or desperate Niger-Deltans go to get their message across? What matters more - the message or the messenger? I wish I had the energy to follow up on CNN and write complaints or demand some form of public apology, but although that's a great idea in principle, what about the real issue at hand?

While we spend time discussing the gravity of CNN's actions, are we to also question Thisday, MEND, the MEND imposters,etc; or are we to put this down in the books as a shameful act, and steer on towards solving a problem so great that it has led to such deception?

Trust in the media is something that I have come to realize is a very dangerous thing. The media should not be there to tell us what to think or, matter of factly, how to think. It is the responsibility of any journalist through its network to relay the facts, and this is where it often gets complicated. Relaying the facts is easy enough, but how one passes along this information is what sets aside NTA from AIT, or Sky from CNN. Sensational News is what keeps the media in business and the $$ rolling in. It is also what keeps us tuned in. So, WHO therefore is to blame when they go too far?

To be clear, there are two important issues that I would like The Afro Beat to discuss...

1. What is the role of the media, both locally and internationally, and where do your loyalties lie?

2. Does it matter that CNN had to fabricate such an encounter to get the message across that the people of the Niger-Delta are suffering, even if it is shining a brighter light on a great injustice?


Thanks Kome!


Misan said...

Yes, it definitely matters that CNN had to resort to such measures in order to get a story. Like you said Kome, sensational news sells...nigerians all over the world (and non-nigerians) were glued to their tv screens and moved at what they saw. You should look at the comments on Anderson Cooper's blog, pp asking "oh Jeff, how did you ever survive" blah blah. Is this the first time it's happened...nope. SO besides demanding an explanation and an apology, i think the Minister of Information should devote more of his efforts to encouraging OBJ to tackle the Niger Delta issue so that next time, we don't have to worry about folks like Koinange other media reps, misrepresenting the truth in order to shed light on a crisis that our own media needs to be shedding more light on.

Bitchy said...

Bravo again Komizzle! Hehe...

I just wanted to respond to your second question - "Does it matter that CNN had to fabricate such an encounter to get the message across that the people of the Niger-Delta are suffering, even if it is shining a brighter light on a great injustice?"

I personally don't think CNN did what it did to help the suffering people of the Niger Delta. I think Koinange had a deadline, he needed sensational footage, and he was able to pay off some opportunistic thugs willing to pose as MEND. I'm not sure I believe there was any altruistic motive behind his acts or behind the acts of the Niger Deltans who hopped about and danced for him, because those men in black (no pun intended... lol) were the very thugs who kidnapped the Philippinos, not MEND.

Like you said early on in your article, some corporations want to get the big scoop first. In my opinion, CNN just wanted to be the first to get MEND on video.

Just as an aside, does anyone not feel sorry for Asari-Dokubo and his palsies? Back when the BBC filmed them in 2004 no one batted an eyelid!!

l said...

I don't think CNN fabricated the encounter with those militants. They may or may not have been memebers of MEND. I mean if you think about it, the reporter claims to have received emails from Jomo setting up the meeting. On the other hand the minister of information also claims to have received emails from JOmo stating that the whole CNN report was fake. I mean technically both people could be lying. Who are we supposed to believe when we don't know who the Jomo guy is

It is very possible that the CNN reporter could've just been looking for a spectacular story or that the statement by the NIgerian information minister was just the government's damage control mechanism in action. Someone is not being straightforward and there isn't enough evidence to say precisely which story is false.

Regardless, i read today that the prisoners have been released and were not harmed. At least that a plus in an area and a situation with so many negatives.

Olamide said...

I think the fabrication is a huge deal. It's with that same kind of 'the end justifies the means' reasoning that George W. decided to go after Saddam. I believe there should be, if there aren't, codes of ethics that govern presentation of 'facts'. Broadcasting agencies are given rights to airwaves by the people. The people own the airspace and so should be presented with accurate information.
It is still possible to tell the truth and sell. Just be extremely opinionated.
OBJ needs to get his act together as regards the Niger Delta. One last try before he leaves. For real, it is ridiculous.