African News Network owe an apology to the victims of TB Joshua’s church collapse

The African News Network (ANN7) recently produced a documentary on the SCOAN building collapse and the theories behind it. Sadly, instead of  producing a balanced, impartial piece of investigative journalism they’ve put out a puff piece for SCOAN. If a journalism student turned in this piece as an assignment they would be failed on the spot. We are appalling that a supposedly professional news network would disrespect the grieving families enough to produce a piece perpetuating the lies of the organisation responsible for killing their relatives. We believe ANN7 owe the families an apology and should publicly retract the documentary. These are the reasons why:

1. Emmanuel TV were involved in the production

Throughout the piece Emmanuel TV camera’s and microphones were visible. We’re not claiming it was produced by Emmanuel TV, but at the very least it is clear that the ANN7 crew were not left alone to produce an impartial piece of journalism.

2) The only people interviewed were those who disagreed with the coroner’s findings

Why wasn’t there an interview with representatives from the Nigeria Building And Road Research Instititute (NBBRI), the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) or the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG) all of whom found serious structural failings when examining the remains of the building?

Why didn’t we hear from any of the families who are suing SCOAN for causing the death of their family members?

Why didn’t we hear from the coroner or at least hear some of the detailed findings in his report?

3) They gave a voice to the “scientist” who put forward the infrasonic weapon theory

A substantial section of the documentary was dedicated to an interview with the “scientist” who suggested that the building was brought down by an infrasonic weapon on the “hovering plane”. This theory was dismissed by the coroner because the witness had only read about this kind of weapon in books, had not practiced or witnessed the use of the weapon and could not show how it could have caused the collapsed building to come down. The documentary states that he “published a journal” documenting the theory, but if ANN7 had done its due diligence it would have found that the paper in question was substantially plagiarised from wikipedia and has never been published in any journal. Is that what you think counts as scholarship ANN7?

4) There was no critique or analysis of the statements put forward

There are so many questions that could be asked about the infrasonic weapon theory, for example – when has this kind of weapon been used before? How were they able to demolish a single building while leaving the others standing? How is it possible that an infrasonic weapon powerful enough to demolish a building didn’t also kill everyone in the vicinity? Without asking these kind of questions, ANN7 are giving credibility to this ridiculous idea.

Why was the so called “independent” structural engineer (wearing an Emmanuel TV t-shirt) not asked to explain the contradiction between his findings and the findings of the 3 independent agencies working on behalf of the coroner?

5) The presenter seems sympathetic to SCOAN’s cause

The presenter Peter Van Onselen is clearly sympathetic to SCOAN’s cause, if not directly involved with them. What journalist would sacrifice their journalistic integrity for anything less than a cause they truly believed in? To his credit though, he has dialogued with us on Twitter, but unfortunately that has only revealed his cards even more.

See conversation below (if you can follow the twitter embeds):

Here lies the problem. Van Onselen, who is not structural engineer states that he has seen the beams and they were twice as reinforced as necessary. How can a non-structural engineer know that? Simple – because the people taking him round (SCOAN) told him. Shouldn’t a journalist dig a little deeper than that?

The single piece of evidence for controlled demolition is that the building came straight down. There were no traces of explosive found at the scene, no reports of explosions, and as we’ve said before – the only believable way that someone could have the access to rig the building with explosives is if it was an inside job. This is why SCOAN keep up the laughable infrasonic theory, because it doesn’t demand any physical evidence, but even Van Onselen agrees that it’s ridiculous (what a shame he didn’t treat it like that in his documentary). The fact is – there really isn’t any dispute about the cause of the collapse! The coroner’s report contains a litany of structural failings that would have made a collapse like this inevitable, the only people disputing this are SCOAN. Releasing a documentary like this only serves to muddy the waters and stir up even more confusion.

Bad journalism happens all the time, but when bad journalism helps a powerful organisation coverup criminal negligence that led to the deaths of 116 people it needs calling out. Journalism should be fighting for the truth and exposing lies, not perpetuating them. We call on ANN7 to do the right thing and apologise for this complete journalism fail.