Media experts have tasked Nigerian journalists to acquire more knowledge on the health sector in order to effectively disseminate and advocate on health issues in the country.
This advice was given during a media panel discussion themed: “Media advocacy and accountability – Strategies for achieving Universal Health Care, UHC,” on the second day of the National Health Dialogue held in Abuja on Friday.
The two-day National Health Dialogue was organised by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, PTCIJ; Project for Advocacy in Child and Family Health, PACFaH; and Project Pink Blue.
Those on the media panel were Bayo Onanuga, the Managing Director of News Agency of Nigeria who was represented by Mohammed Suleman, Dapo Olorunyomi, CEO of PREMIUM TIMES newspaper, Seember Nyager, CEO of Public and Private Development Centre, PPDC, and Ifeanyi Nsofor from Health Watch.
Mr. Suleman said health issues should be taken seriously and the only way to achieve this is for journalists to have a good understanding of the sector.
He called for collaboration between the media and health ministry, stating that covering the sector should be more than just daily reporting, but also for the media to serve as a tool for advocacy.
He advised journalists to take advantage of the freedom of information to get the information needed to hold government accountable towards ensuring transparency in the health sector.
“We must improve information dissemination, monitor infrastructural development, procurement activities, drug disbursements and immunisation activities done by the government and the only way we can do this effectively and have desired results is by being knowledgeable on health”, he added
Mr. Olorunyomi said education of journalists is key to the success of the Universal Health Coverage.
Quoting section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution, he said it is the responsibility of the media to hold government accountable.
He charged journalists to go deeper in investigation especially in the health sector.
“We in the media need to take the lead in advocacy for UHC. Health is a key focus in Premium Times and we are putting lots of attention on it until we get to where we should be.”
He said for Nigeria to fix its health sector, “we must fix health journalism as health is a fundamental human right, it is not a myth.”
In her remarks, Ms. Nyager said investigative reporting will help open more channels and discovery on challenges faced in the health sector.