Akwa Ibom bars journalists from covering government activities over coronavirus
The Akwa Ibom government has barred journalists from covering events at the seat of power for fear of community transmission of the novel coronavirus.
The decision might not be unconnected with the incident in June where 16 Government House Press Corps members were said to have contracted the virus.
The development must have informed the cancellation of an earlier invitation to members of the correspondents’ chapel to cover the inauguration of the state’s new Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) executive members, commissioners and special advisers.
Reacting to the resolution, the chapel described the move as stigmatisation.
The reporters said it was surprising that the Governor Udom Emmanuel administration could allow party loyalists, well wishers and members of interest groups to attend the two inaugurations while barring them from performing their constitutional duties.
They stated that stopping correspondents of national newspapers from covering activities at the Government House amounted to stigmatisation and a slight on their watchdog role.
The chapel observed that journalists were not the real carriers of COVID-19, noting that they are rather the victims of the pandemic on account of their exposure to politicians and government officials.
It noted: “As those who midwife the democracy we are all enjoying today, we know that the media as the fourth estate of the realm has been at the forefront of projecting government activities. When COVID-19 started in Nigeria, the media was at the forefront of the battle.
“And incidentally, we noticed that COVID-19 first started attacking the high and mighty in the world, especially prominent government officials and Nigerians. Because the media practitioners work closely with these prominent Nigerians, we were not spared the hazard.
“At the end of the day, a lot of us were exposed to risk. In Akwa Ibom State Government House, about 16 members of the Press Corps attached to big men were affected by COVID-19. And after the incident, we heard about stigmatisation against the media by the state government. But we never knew that journalists in the state will sustain a permanent scar over something some of them contracted while working with the primary victims.”
The newsmen added: “We got the shock of our lives today (yesterday) when we discovered that two prominent events in the state – the swearing in of the eight new members of the State Executive Council and new state exco of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – had no member of the Correspondents’ Chapel invited to cover them.
“And when we probed further, we were told that it is because media men have contracted the virus. Who should we really blame? This is a global pandemic ravaging the world and the media are members of the society.
“The leadership of Correspondents’ Chapel, Akwa Ibom State chapter strongly condemned this development and an act of stigmatisation.
“We knew we were taking risk, but we felt obligated to our duties to our various organisations. And if this act of stigmatisation continues, we will be left with no other option than to boycott state government activities.”