How CNN’s Nima Elbagir Got ‘Proof of Life’ Video Exclusive

By Mark Joyella 

The story opens with a stark yet powerful image: fifteen girls, all wearing black robes with just their faces visible. They are believed to be some of Nigeria’s “Chibok Girls” who were kidnapped from a school dormitory two years ago, sparking a global social media campaign, #BringBackOurGirls.

CNN senior international correspondent Nima Elbagir showed the “proof of life” video, believed to have been recorded in December, to family and friends of the missing girls (below, left). Two mothers recognized their daughters in the video.

2p CNNi Europe Aircheck“So much time has passed without any real development, any tangible sign of the girls that many people began to believe the worst could have happened,” Elbagir told TVNewser from Abuja, Nigeria. “To then see what appears to be evidence the girls could still be alive has reinvigorated the campaign being waged by the families of the Chibok girls and their supporters to hold the Nigerian government accountable for each day that has passed without the girls being found,” she said.

Elbagir and producer Stephanie Busari covered the disappearance of the girls two years ago, and have followed it since. When Busari heard a “proof of life” video may have been sent by the captors–believed to be the terrorist group Boko Haram–and government negotiators, she began working sources and contacts trying to track it down.

“Once we’d made contact with the person we believed to be in possession of the video, we then worked together through our sources to do due diligence on them–find out their motivations, credibility,” Elbagir said. “We then arranged a number of meets, and I think what ultimately convinced this person to give us the video was that Stephanie and I have been working on this story since it broke two years ago…It’s a story so many of us at CNN feel very emotionally involved with.”

Elbagir and Busari believe the person who had the video agreed to release it to CNN in the hopes of giving the girls’ parents hope. “A lot of people have come up to us here in Nigeria and been in touch from around the world to tell us how heartbroken they were watching the parents.”

There has also been anger, much of it directed at the Nigeria government, which many believe has not done enough to find and rescue the missing girls. Since CNN first aired its story on the “proof of life” video, Nigeria’s Senate has passed a bill calling on the heads of the country’s security agencies to answer questions next week about the efforts to bring the girls home. “The bill was passed unanimously and one of the co-sponsors of the bill, Senator Shehu Sani, told us the bill is a direct result of CNN’s reporting,” Elbagir told TVNewser.