Doctored photo used to falsely claim CNN announced Peter Obi as Nigerian election winner

Several posts on social media claimed that US news channel CNN did not recognise Bola Tinubu of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as the country's president-elect. Instead, these posts alleged that the TV station announced the Labour Party’s Peter Obi as the winner of the February election. But the claims are false: the photo in the posts, from a 2020 CNN broadcast, was digitally doctored to include images of Obi and Nigeria’s coat of arms.

“CNN refused to acknowledge Tinubu as president-elect, projecting Peter Obi as the winner to be announced,” reads the post shared on March 1, 2023.

It said that the CNN projection came “even after INEC announced Tinubu as the winner of the 2023 election”. The acronym refers to Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission.

A screenshot of the false post, taken on March 2, 2023

The post features three photos, including one of CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer in front of a screen showing a photo of Obi with the words “elected president” written beside it.

The Facebook page that shared the post has a history of spreading disinformation about the APC and has been the subject of past debunks by AFP Fact Check (see here, here and here).

Nigeria went to the polls to choose a successor to President Muhammadu Buhari on February 25, 2023.

Nigeria’s electoral body announced Tinubu as the winner, beating Labour’s Obi and Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the leading opposition People’s Democratic Party.

The ballot was marred by technological glitches, late arrival of election officials and materials at polling centres, and a lack of transparency in the uploading of results to a central election data website.

Abubakar and Obi have rejected the election outcome, with both claiming victory at the polls. Their parties said they would challenge the results in court.

"We will explore all legal and peaceful options to reclaim our mandate. We won the election, and we will prove it to Nigerians," Obi told reporters in the Nigerian capital city of Abuja on March 2.

Tinubu’s campaign insisted the election was credible and that the influential “godfather of Lagos” won a fair contest.

Although CNN reported the opposition’s rejection of the result, the claim that the American broadcaster recognised Obi as the winner is false.

Doctored image

By conducting a reverse image search, AFP Fact Check found that the photos in the post were online long before the February 25 election.

A photo similar to the first one was published on November 7, 2020, on CNN’s live blog used for the coverage of the last US presidential election.

A screenshot from CNN, taken on March 2, 2023

AFP Fact Check found that the photo used in the false claim is a doctored screenshot from the CNN broadcast.

Several visual elements show that the original screenshot was edited to make it look as though CNN announced Obi as the winner of the presidential election.

In both images, Blitzer stands on the left of the projection screen, holding papers the same way and standing in the same spot. His hand gestures are also identical.

The screen behind Blitzer has the same yellow checkmark, while the floor design alluding to the American flag is also the same.

However, in the doctored image, the seal of the US president has been covered with the Nigerian coat of arms. But the outline of the original seal is still visible.

A comparison of screenshots showing the original photo, above, and the altered version, taken on March 3, 2023

Moreover, contrary to the claims in the post, CNN has published several reports referring to Tinubu as Nigeria’s president-elect, including in this video report.

Screenshot showing a CNN report announcing Tinubu’s election victory, taken on March 3, 2023

This is not the first time CNN has been the target of disinformation linked to the Nigerian election.

In September 2022, Facebook accounts falsely claimed that CNN journalist Brianna Keiler named her son after Obi and pointed to it as proof of his growing popularity outside Nigeria. We debunked the claim here.