Some health communication experts have charged journalists reporting coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria on professionalism and fact-checking, saying that their news reports would go a long way in alleviating fear among the people.
The experts made the charge at a Media Professional Training On Covid 19 Response organised by the Lagos state Ministry of Health in collaboration with Lafiya Project tagged ” Gender and Social Inclusion In COVID-19 Response: The Role of the Media”.
In his presentation, COVID-19 Lagos IPC Pillar Lead, Dr. Folarin Opawoye, said journalists as frontline workers must ensure they are protected while discharging their duties, saying that they must follow the protection guidelines stipulated by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) when on duty.
Opawoye said Nigeria has not been doing enough testing to ascertain the actual numbers of infected persons and so the citizens can best protect themselves if they abide the guiding principles stated by the NCDC.
He added that there is need for people to consistently do Covid-19 test as to know their current status, saying that ” No treatment for Covid-19 yet, treatment is majorly supportive and Dexamethasone can be used for severe cases”.
Opawoye added ” People should watch their distance physically. The media needs to help edit images to ensure that they don’t send a mixed message to the public.
” The media need to get expert correspondents that would verify messages before getting to the public”.
Speaking on the topic ‘Managing Misinformation ‘, Mr Orwell Okpe, who represented Mr David Ajikobi of Africa Check, charged journalists on constant fact-checking of the information at their disposal, saying that the content they send out influences the thinking and attitude of the public on coronavirus pandemic.
Okpe stated that fact-checking and verification of information by journalists would help in reducing fake news.
He cautioned journalists to be careful in pushing out information about coronavirus unverified, saying that ” There are alot of conspiracy theories going on in the world presently”.
” Information should be sourced from a credible and verified sources so that it will not misinform the public on the second wave of the pandemic “, said Okpe.
Meanwhile, in her remarks, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Health and COVID-19 to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Dr Ore Finnih, said similar training was held for journalists in April and that the knowledge acquired by the media practitioners reflected in their reporting of the virus during the first wave.
Finnih urged journalists to concentrate more on human angle stories than reporting the scores of infection and death.
She said reporting of numbers of infected person and death would send panic to the public and that it would not help in the fight against the virus in Lagos.
” I urge journalists to focus more on how the virus has affected socioeconomic existence, homes , lifestyle and socio-consciousness than reporting scores.
” Journalists should report on how our economy has been affected by the virus, and as well our cultural existence. The media should do more of human angle story that will not create fear in the mind of our people, said Finnih.
The training was attended by journalists from the Print, Broadcast and Online media.