Workshop Addresses Key Media Roles in Fight Against COVID-19, Vaccine HesitancyAfrican News, Featured, Latest News, News, News Across Nigeria, News From The State Monday, January 25th, 2021
(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Participants at a two day workshop on the role of the media in the fight against the dreaded Covid 19 pandemic currently ravaging the globe, organized for Journalists in the five South East states of Nigeria, have expressed worry over issue of fake news on the scourge and doubts by many people that the novel killer disease is not real.
They noted that in spite of reports of fatalities and the spike in new infections, quite a good number of people still do not believe that the virus is real.
Our Correspondent who attended the workshop put together by the Nigerian press Council (NPC) in conjunction with EME’GS limited, a private firm weekend, reports that the programme which witnessed several paper presentations was graced by Journalists from both the traditional and new media outfits.
In a paper, entitled: “Addressing the strength and weakness of Social media in reporting Covid 19”: the Head, Department of Mass Communication, Renaissance University Enugu, Dr. Maxwell Menkiti Ngene, noted that the world is not only fighting a pandemic, but ‘infodemic’ and the social media which is viewed as the greatest purveyor of fake news, misinformation and disinformation but could be used to good effects when the operators are exposed to the right information.
He noted that social media has taken centre stage as far as information dissemination in Nigeria is concerned, noting that certain actions of government encourage fake news and many Nigerians have long ceased to believe the government and as such do not bother to watch, listen to, or even read daily disclosures by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
According to him, agents of disinformation have shifted their attack to the COVID-19 vaccine, thereby, making it vulnerable to suspicion.
It was pointed out during the programme that some journalists display apathy when it comes to taking the necessary measures to protect their well-being.
A Communique issued at the end of the programme regretted that some journalists and editors publish stories without recourse to basic ethical considerations.
Executive Secretary of Nigerian press Council, Mr. Francis Nwosu, had explained that the workshop was aimed at training the participants on information management in the context of the challenges posed by COVID-19 and other associated matters.
He said the Council recognises the media as frontline partners in the fight against Covid 19.
Nwosu however, described the media as a quintessential witness of truth and justice , adding that its practitioners must always strive to report accurately in order to attract public confidence.
In his remark at the event, President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chief Chris Isiguzo, noted that the spike in the second wave of the pandemic had made it more expedient for the Federal Government to provide insurance cover for all frontline workers , including journalists.
He stressed that such gestures would boost the morale of practitioners, as well as limit misinformation about the pandemic.
The NUJ president however, appealed to journalists not to report the pandemic in languages that would evoke fear in the masses and to desist from spreading fake news
The workshop featured paper presentations on the topics such as ‘COVID-19: Role of the Media in Effective Communication and Preventive Measures, “Combating Misinformation and Disinformation during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond”, Ethical Consideration and Safety of Journalists during COVID-19, Reporting” as well as “Assessing the Strength and Weakness of Social Media in Reporting COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the participants had also in their communique signed by the NPC Executive Secretary, and Enugu state Council Chairman of NUJ, Comrade Rex Arum, recommended that there should be effective partnership between government and the media to ensure that stories which pose threats are reviewed promptly by platforms, while editors should ensure that they do not republish falsehood.
That “government must find a way to regain public confidence by complying with COVID-19 safety protocols when necessary , making COVID-19 statistics real and issuing coherent and truthful information on the pandemic.
“The various levels of government must partner with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to embark on mass literacy in order to cascade the message to the rural communities in local dialects.
“Considering the involvement of Nigerian students, who are active social media users in spreading fake news, there should be a deliberate effort by the NPC to organise similar workshops in campuses across the country.
“The NCDC should ensure that those who receive the COVID-19 vaccine make a public show of it so as to dispel fears of those already misinformed and encourage those on the fringes.
“Journalists must wear protective equipment, maintain social distance, avoid stigmatisation, stereotyping, respect human life and must publish with the right languages.
“Religious organisations must play their role in order to curb misinformation, while the Government should provide sources of water and wash stands in public schools, amongst others.
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