Practicing journalists in Nigeria have been advised to take charge of the media space in order to provide the right information to Nigerians on COVID-19.
A veteran journalist and Chief Executive Officer of the International Society for Media in Public Health (ISMPH), Chief Moji Makanjuola, gave the charge at the opening ceremony of the 4th Annual Conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalist (ANHEJ), with the theme: COVID-19 Reportage Assessment, at Keffi, Nasarawa State, weekend.
She, therefore, blamed the journalists covering the health sector for failing to take charge of the news space during the peak of the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, hence, allowing quacks and untrained persons to fill the media space with information that were not verified.
At the opening ceremony of the 4th Annual Conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalist (ANHEJ), with the theme: COVID-19 Reportage Assessment.
She, therefore, charged the journalists to develop a new mind-set with the determination “to rid the nation of COVID-19, – the media way. Track it, its impact, its mitigation, what works, what does not work with it. What is being done right and what is being done wrong.”
While explaining what the media should have done, Chief Makanjuola, said: “Authoritatively, we should have taken over our professional domain. We should have searched, researched to give out genuine, authentic, credible and authoritative news all of the time.
“We should have been backed by evidence and data for believability. We have the pen, the knowhow and the authority to do so. That after all is what we are paid to do.
“We should along with our mainline role taken over the social media. We are influencers in our own rights. We should have had active social media pages where our followers and likers listened to what we had to give and it would have been respected and venerated.
“We build that profile over the years of practices on our respective platforms. We are the health Journalists and own that turn.
“Practising media these modern times demands elements of aggressiveness and proactivity. If you have a good story and your editor does not use it, you should use on your social media handles provided of course it is true, verifiable and sound.
“We should have engaged researchers wherever they are in this our global village. We have enough researchers too. We should have engaged people everywhere to obtain a good story for our publics.
“We could have accentuated the necessary and positive for good impact. We should not have repeated the stories that have no credibility and do more damage to our audiences’ psyche.”
In his address of welcome, the President, Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), Hassan Zaggi, said that the media did its best within the circumstance it found itself in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
He noted that even though COVID-19 cases in Nigeria are on a downward trend in the mist global warning for a second wave, the conference was aimed at examining what the journalists covering the health sector have done so far.
Mr. Zaggi explained that covering the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during the chain of lockdowns imposed by the government, was very tasking and challenging for the journalists, stressing that: “Even though a journalist cannot go out to source for information, but he/she is expected to get the needed information, disseminate same, so that the people can be able to protect themselves from the disease.
“As it is being said that necessity is the mother of invention, we had to develop ingenuous ways of getting the right information to the people.
“In the process, journalists, especially, those covering the health sector in Nigeria were overstretched, some even contracted the virus.”
He called on the journalists to continue to put in more effort for the good of all Nigerians.
In his goodwill message, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Kazali Mulombo, applauded the Nigerian journalists for their efforts in reporting the pandemic during the lockdowns.
Represented by the WHO Communication Specialists, Mrs. Charity Warigon, the Country Representative said:
“During the pandemic lockdown, you all made our work easy by passing information to the public promptly and we are proud of you.”
He noted the WHO remained committed to supporting the health journalists and the Nigeria government in an effort to ensure Nigerians remain healthy.