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IPC, others seek protection of journalists, urge caution in reporting coronavirus

By Margaret Mwantok and Sunday Aikulola
24 March 2020   |   4:24 am
The International Press Centre (IPC) has called on media proprietors to provide journalists covering the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria with necessary protective gadgets and medications required.


• Foundation tasks religious leaders, politicians on safety
The International Press Centre (IPC) has called on media proprietors to provide journalists covering the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria with necessary protective gadgets and medications required.

The Executive Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, said journalists are among professionals on duty during crisis situations and their safety must, therefore, be accorded very high priority.

“From provision with protective wears and adequate supply of basics such as hand sanitisers, nothing can be too much to do for journalists on the field at this moment,” Arogundade said in a statement.

According to him, journalists covering Covid-19 also deserve to be placed on a special insurance package.

The IPC Director advised journalists to avail themselves of all the health tips on avoiding the pandemic, especially as outlined by global health bodies and national health institutions.

“Journalists should apply necessary caution so as not to expose themselves to avoidable health risk in the urge to cover breaking stories on the pandemic,” he stressed.

Mr. Arogundade also charged journalists and other media professionals to exercise professional restraint and ensure that all supposed breaking stories on Covid-19 are fact-checked to mitigate the spread of false or misleading information.

Recall that on February 27, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reported the first case of coronavirus in Nigeria.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in Abuja urged Nigerians not to fall for the antics of purveyors of fakes news and disinformation, adding that government was working with Facebook to bring down any misleading information.

According to him, “we know that at times like this, purveyors of fake news and disinformation usually ramp up their acts. Facebook has asked Nigerians to report any false or misleading report on Facebook and Instagram pages, so they can immediately bring them down.

“All that Nigerians are required to do is to flag any false or misleading report on the epidemic and Facebook will remove any such report. With Coronavirus now in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture is intensifying its public sensitization and enlightenment campaign on the disease.”

Mohammed noted that media agencies of the ministry had been directed to intensify ongoing sensitisation and enlightenment campaign to arm Nigerians with the necessary information to stay well, observing that the National Orientation Agency

But Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, communication specialist and consultant to Unilag Radio said mainstream media must act fast to put their bulletin to contain the virus of fake news because the news itself is a virus, so, they need anti virus, which can be provided by the mainstream media.

“The Ministry of Information and health must collaborate and must provide on the spot information every hour on the hour and have platforms where people can phone in case they suspect any virus in their locality. It should be localised not national alone so that people can be able to send information to the appropriate quarters for the prevention.

“The media must embark on creation of awareness rather than creation of interest so that people can know how to prevent themselves from the virus. The mainstream should take it as a social responsibilty.”

The CEO Modion Communications, Odion Aleobua, stated that it is unfortunate that the virus is in Nigeria, “the government must be entrusted to provide the right information, the phenomenon of fake news has come to stay with us.

“Beyond the government, the onus is also on everyone to understand that they have to verify any information from mainstream. Quarantine facilities must be equipped to deal with the mental and emotional pressures of isolation. There must be uninterrupted power supply, access to entertainment, news and slight walkout areas. Those isolated must not feel let down and abandoned by the government and the system.”

Chairman, Lagos State Council, Nigeria Union of Journalism, Qasim Akinreti, said, “journalists must verify sources of information, cross check our facts there, they shouldn’t go out of their way to manufacture stories because it is not only inimical to the health of Nigerians but to the economy. We have seen what coronavirus has done to the economy of other countries, this is the time journalists must be extremely professional.”

Group Managing Director of CMC Connect (Perception Managers), Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, said, “we should control the narrative, there are so many inappropriate news going on I think government is trying the flow of information is good and timely they must ensure they are on top of the information, it must be timely. There should be an information center where pple can go and get information.

“A lot of things have been done on social media and a lot inaccurate while some are unintentional errors, a lot has been intentional where people are taking advantage of this and spreading false news and this goes back to the issue of regulating social media—-I don’t think social media should be regulated though we have deviant behaviours but people that have done wrong thing should be sanctioned. I think journalists that are purveyors of news and information have the responsibility to do the right thing.”

According to the World Health Organization, there is a lot of false information around on the Covid-19 virus.

According to WHO, “People of all ages can be infected by the coronavirus. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. Taking a hot bath does not prevent the coronavirus. Hand dryers are not effective in killing the coronavirus. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the coronavirus. Garlic is healthy but there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the coronavirus. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, only work against bacteria, to date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the coronavirus.

Similarly, the Akin Fadeyi Foundation, conveners of the Corruption, Not in My Country Project have called on all religious, political and traditional Institutions to adhere to the government and World Health Organisation’s directive on the restriction of all religious and political gatherings are strictly adhered to.

The founder, Akin Fadeyi, said, ‘’The rate of infections and tragic mortalities around the globe has underscored such compelling need for all of us to yield to government directive.”

He added, ‘irrespective of our country’s level of coordination, surveillance and critical preparedness, as citizens, we still have a huge role to play within our communities to ensure the prevention or reduction of human-to-human transmission. This will not only protect us; it will also reduce the pressure on our nation’s health workers who are staking everything on the front-line to keep us alive.”

Following the most recent report issued by the Nigerian government, there are 35 confirmed cases in the country. To this end and as a preventive measure, the federal government has issued a travel ban on the US, UK and 11 other countries, whilst schools are also being shut down. Nonetheless, Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control (‘NCDC’) has developed a new guideline for people to stay in self-isolation.

In the guideline called the ‘Self Isolation Guidance for Nigeria’, citizens returning into the country especially from China, Japan, Italy, Republic of Korea, Iran, France, Germany, and Spain are advised to adhere strictly to the 14 days self-isolation rules to prevent further exposure or spreading of the disease to other members of the society.

However, if religious and political gatherings are still being observed unabated, Nigerian citizens and indeed foreigners amongst us would be vulnerable to the risk of infection, at a time where even the best scientist in the world are still grappling with straws to find a cure.

‘We commend the NCDC for its timely release of information and efforts since the outbreak of COVID-19, even as we acknowledge their possible challenges in the face of infrastructural shortfalls in our healthcare system,” Faseyi said.

While the Akin Fadeyi Foundation would like to convey its heartfelt wishes to all currently affected by the COVID-19 virus and wish them a speedy recovery, “we urge our fellow citizens not to panic, but to thoroughly adhere to the World Health Organization’s protocol for prevention, which includes consistent handwash with soap under running water for 30 seconds, social distancing, and avoidance of crowd, sneezing and coughing into elbow, and by all means, quickly reporting symptomatic signs to authorities concerned.

“As a foundation and with support from our funders, the McArthur Foundation, we shall soon be rolling out audio-visual messages on social media and TV in furthering consistent and robust messaging that enable us all to exercise caution.”