Media Chieftains Decry Journalists’ Excruciating Working Conditions

Media Chieftains Decry Journalists’ Excruciating Working Conditions

…Confronted with Unpaid Salaries, Lack of Protection Kits, They’ve Risen to be Counted …Without Special Allowance Like Medics, Security Agents, their Contribution Has Been Daunting …Poor Power Supply, High Cost of Internet Access is a Big Challenge Against the backdrop of accolades showered by President Muhammadu Buhari on the media and other groups, for their

…Confronted with Unpaid Salaries, Lack of Protection Kits, They’ve Risen to be Counted

…Without Special Allowance Like Medics, Security Agents, their Contribution Has Been Daunting

…Poor Power Supply, High Cost of Internet Access is a Big Challenge

Against the backdrop of accolades showered by President Muhammadu Buhari on the media and other groups, for their role in sensitising the citizenry on hygienic practices and social distancing, bigwigs of the famed fourth estate of the realm concur that in spite of some challenges, the media’s role in reporting COVID-19 has been particularly daunting.

Confronted by months of unpaid salaries, harrowing conditions of service which makes no provision for insurance and lack of personal protection equipments (PPE), they noted that the Nigerian journalists have shoved that aside and risen to be counted as the nation battle the spread of the virus that has spiked to about two million cases, killing more than 100,000 persons globally. With 362 cases, 11 deaths and 96 discharged patients, the country is still considered as one of the least impacted countries by the virus in the world.

The media chieftains also observe that poor power supply which makes Journalists to spend a fortune in powering their stand by electricity generators and the high cost of internet access is a big challenge.

They posit that the media is greatly encumbered in its work and requires support by government and other public spirited groups within society to adequately carry out the task of reporting the COVID-19 outbreak.

The editors implore a section of the media which has been publishing unverifiable claims and spreading fiction, on the coronavirus in respect to the 5G, to desist from doing so.

Responding to Buhari’s thumb up for the media in the Monday broadcast, Publisher, Political Economist magazine, Mr Kenneth Ugbechie asserts that “The media has done well in the circumstance hence deserves the President”s commendation.”

He however contends that “The Nigerian media has been in a peculiar recession and distress, struggling to pay its bills and suddenly the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic which has placed additional burden on already stretched industry.”

“Think about this, other professionals involved in the management of the pandemic get paid special allowance including security personnel and the medics…only the media do so as a matter of routine…no special treatment, they are not even properly kitted with personal protection equipment (PPE). Some are being owed salary in their workplaces For me, the media has risen to the occasion using the social media and conventional channels to update and advise Nigerians,” Ugbechie, also a former Editor, Daily Times quips.

“But could they have done better? Yes! Especially in the aspect of investigative journalism to debunk several theories that cast a pall of confusion on the public…The media should do more investigations on the real cause of the pandemic…source of the virus, probe deeper into the story from China on the true picture of death toll which a section of the media claims is under reported by Chinese authorities,” he says.

Echoing similar thought, National Secretary, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr Shuaibu Usman Leman says, “The media deserve the praise because like medical professionals, media professionals are also on the front lines in this battle against COVID-19.

“Sadly though,” he noted, “the Federal and State Governments have not done anything to encourage the media. For example, the issue of power, media houses spend their meagre resources in buying diesel to run generators with no support from Government. The high cost of data is a big challenge. Journalists move around without insurance because most media houses cannot afford it. No Personal Protection Equipment for Journalists who cover hospitals and isolation centres. We must take care of Journalists as a matter of priority and provide assistance to media organizations if we are to win this battle. We have little time.”

Explaining the contributions of the media, Mr Mustapha Isah Osikhekha, President, Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), says, “The media, especially the broadcast outfits, have done some work in sensitizing the people on ways to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

According to him, “My stations (STV and Rhythm FM) air messages on social distancing and personal hygiene. Journalists have been out there doing reports on the pandemic despite the lockdown.”

Osikhekha, also head of news at both Radio and TV at Silverbird, is worried that a section of the media have been disseminating fiction about the pandemic. “Unfortunately, some media houses have helped in promoting myths and conspiracy theories on the origin of coronavirus. Some have published unverifiable claims that COVID-19 was caused by 5G. Our major duty as journalists is to separate facts from fiction. Facts are sacred.” The Guild’s president says.

Managing Director, The Sun, Mr Onuoha Ukeh also agrees that “The media has done well in a bad situation, even though there are still opportunities to do more going forward.” He believes, “The media should continue sensitisation and through its reportage emphasise need for social distancing, observance of basic hygiene as well as focusing on efforts to discover cure for COVID-19.”

In accessing the impact of the 14 day lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and the nation’s capital Abuja, President Buhari was effusive in his applaud of not just the heroic contributions of medical workers and volunteers but also the media and other groups for their sensitising role.

“I must also thank the media houses, celebrities and other public figures for the great work they are doing in sensitizing our citizens on hygienic practices, social distancing and issues associated with social gatherings,” he says in the Monday evening broadcast.

But while promising further measures to motivate the health workers and volunteers, the President was silent on the media whose contribution is equally heroic.

“At this point, I must recognise the incredible work being done by our healthcare workers and volunteers across the country especially in frontline areas of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory.

“You are our heroes and as a nation, we will forever remain grateful for your sacrifice during this very difficult time. More measures to motivate our health care workers are being introduced which we will announce in the coming weeks,” he says.

Buhari also provided additional reliefs to the vulnerable.

“No country can afford the full impact of a sustained restriction of movement on its economy. I am fully aware of the great difficulties experienced especially by those who earn a daily wage such as traders, day-workers, artisans and manual workers.

“For this group, their sustenance depends on their ability to go out. Their livelihoods depend on them mingling with others and about seeking work. But despite these realities we must not change the restrictions.

“In the past two weeks, we announced palliative measures such as food distribution, cash transfers and loans repayment waivers to ease the pains of our restrictive policies during this difficult time. These palliatives will be sustained. “I have also directed that the current social register be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households in the next two weeks. This means we will support an additional one million homes with our social investment programs. A technical committee is working on this and will submit a report to me by the end of this week

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