A Nigerian government spokesman on Monday accused CNN of paying for and staging a report that showed 24 Filipino hostages being held by masked gunmen in the remote mangrove swamps of southern Nigeria, according to a CNN report.

"We have evidence that some of these people were actually paid to put up a show," Nigerian Minister of Information Frank Nweke Jr. told CNN International about last week's report by Jeff Koinange, CNN's Africa correspondent.

"It was a paid job, and that's exactly why we are very upset about it," he said, without offering evidence.

"He had actually approached other people before then to do the same thing and his offer was declined. And he shopped around for more people and found those criminals who were willing to play ball with him and they put on the kind of show that they put up and which was shown around the world."

CNN and Koinange flatly denied the charge. In a written statement, CNN said it did not pay for any part of the report, nor does the network pay for interviews.

The report showed the hostages, held captive since their cargo ship was seized January 20, seated on white plastic chairs, lined up in a row.

As dozens of militants, dressed in black and wearing black ski masks, danced and fired automatic weapons into the air, the hostages appeared immobilized by fear.

Go to http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/africa/02/12/nigeria.reaction/index.html for the full report.