The International Press Centre, Lagos has called for the inclusion of media practitioners in the existing task force and response team for COVID-19 at both national and states levels.
The Executive Director, IPC, Lanre Arogundade made the call during a webinar organized by the Media Foundation for West Africa with the theme “Safety of Journalists & COVID-19 in Anglophone West Africa.”
Arogundade quipped that journalists have a vital role to play as far as the fight against COVID-19 is concerned and should be adequately involved.
He explained that the inclusion of media professionals would help to address communication challenges being experienced most especially among the executives and law enforcement agencies which has led to the harassment of journalists and frontline workers in the past few days.
He buttressed that, “one would have expected that the covid-19 task force would have involved communication expert, media owners, Nigerian Union of Journalists and the Guild of Editors, that would have addressed the issues of misinformation at various levels.”
The IPC Director noted that there are some sorts of restrictions for journalists who are trying to cover the pandemic beyond the daily briefing by the task force at the national and state levels.
“Information flow from the government has not been lagging and it seems journalists are limited to covering of the PTF daily briefing”, he added.
He stressed that Journalists who are trying to carry out investigations are facing a lot of hindrances and they can’t investigate the accountability and transparency aspect of the pandemic especially in the distribution of palliatives and disbursement of funds.
He also used the opportunity to call for an end to the harassment of journalists by security personnel who are acting on the orders of political office holders.
He disclosed that no more than 20 journalists have been arrested so far and IPC has been taking actions to curtail the constant harassment of journalists.
Also speaking during the webinar, George Sarpong, Executive secretary of Ghana’s National Media Commission explained that the Ghanian government has been providing support for the media during the pandemic.
He explained that the government has promised increased budgetary allocation for state owned media, waived regulatory fees for broadcast media adding that Personal Professional Equipment has been provided for journalists who are covering the pandemic.