Nigeria’s Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, has said journalists reporting events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are at risk of contracting the virus as much as health workers.
Mr Mohammed, while responding to questions at the daily Presidential Task Force briefing on Tuesday, said journalists should be considered frontline soldiers in the fight against the disease.
He said enlightenments, sensitisations and other interventions will be impossible without the presence of the media.
“As of today, there is no known vaccine or medicine for COVID-19. The only strategy we are employing is non pharmaceutical intervention which is advocacy, enlightenment and sensitisation.
“These cannot be carried out without the support of the media. Therefore, it won’t be wrong to qualify a journalist as a frontline soldier in the fight against COVID-19.
“We pray nobody contracts the virus but you are probably at much risk as the health workers,” he said.
Mr Mohammed also said discussions will be raised at the Task Force meeting for compensation of journalists by their employers.
“I think just as our health workers, airport workers etc are frontline soldiers in this war, you also are.
“So it won’t be out of place to take up this matter at the level of the task force and also engage your employers as to what kind of arrangement can be made for journalists, especially those of you who are with us everyday,” the minister said.
Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, journalists in many parts of the world are still covering press conferences and conducting on-the-ground reporting. This exposes them to the virus as much as health workers who are considered first respondents to patients.
Since the outbreak of the disease, some journalists have contracted the virus.
The latest case is Richard Quest, a Cable Network News (CNN) reporter. Already, Chris Cuomo and Brooke Baldwin, both of the CNN, had tested positive for COVID-19.
It is, however, uncertain if any journalist has contracted the virus in Nigeria where 665 cases have been recorded, of which 188 have been treated and discharged and 22 deaths recorded.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of International Press Centre (IPC), Lanre Arogundade, earlier said journalists covering COVID-19 deserves to be placed on a special insurance package.
According to a statement published on the centre’s website, Mr Arogundade said journalists are among professionals “who are always on duty during crisis situations and their safety should 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,” he said.
He advised journalists to avail themselves of all the health tips on avoiding COVID-19 infection 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 understandable urge to cover breaking stories on the pandemic,” he said.