Lagos State Chapter of the International Press Centre (IPC) has urged journalists to ensure factual and accurate reporting of the COVID-19 pandemic by verifying the sources, even if they emanate from experts.
It also advised journalists to eschew bias and avoid presenting their opinions as facts, insisting that stories must be fair, balanced and reflect diverse sides to the subject matter at all times.
Executive Director of IPC, Lanre Arogundade, gave the charge during the launch of an advisory titled, “A Safety And Professional Advisory For Journalists,” to aid journalists in covering and reporting the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
Arogundade stated that generations of Nigerian journalists were covering a pandemic for the first time and therefore needed as much professional support as possible, adding that disseminators of information that would help combat the pandemic, journalists were being exposed to heath and security risks, which should be addressed through diverse means.
“It is against this background that the advisory is divided into three parts – Safety, Ethics/Professionalism and Social Responsibility,” he said.
Arogundade added that the advisory had also become necessary because the COVID-19 was spreading to more states and all journalists, whether on the field or not, should benefit from relevant knowledge.
Affirming that the advisory derives from and complements existing national, regional and media standards for crisis reporting, he pointed out it would soon be followed by capacity training for journalists in partnership with other media and communication outfits.
“The trainings would enable journalists to share information and ask relevant questions based on their field experiences and in turn receive more professional support,” he added.
He stressed that the advisory was developed pursuant to the objectives of Component 4b: Support to Media of the European Union Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria, adding, “Although responsibility for the content was solely that of IPC.” He further admonished journalists to apply the principle of equitable access in covering the pandemic particularly in conduction interviews as to give voice and space to diverse stakeholders in the country.
“Avoid limiting reports to the daunting challenges posed by COVID-19 in terms of the number of deaths and new infections, but also give deserving attention to the successes being recorded in combating the pandemic in terms of the number of those being successfully treated and discharged,” he stated.
He also canvassed Federal Government’s support for Persons Living With Disabilities (PWD’s), pensioners and women, noting that for pensioners, this was the time for the Federal and state governments to show compassion by first paying all their pension arrears. “I addition to that, they should be given a flat-rate COVID-19 monetised palliative that to be credited directly into their bank accounts.