ActionAid Nigeria, prominent media Practitioners as well as other civil society organisations in Nigeria have recommended the deployment of improved strategies for humanitarian crisis reporting in order to overcome the challenges of misinformation and disinformation particularly during this Covid 19 pandemic in Nigeria.
These observations and recommendations were reached after a two-day virtual training for Journalists on Humanitarian Crisis Reporting organised by ActionAid Nigeria from June 22-25, 2020 as part of the implementation of the Strengthening Citizens Resistance Against Prevalence of Corruption (SCRAP-C) project.
The training was attended by 39 journalists from Lagos, Kano, Akwa-Ibom, Enugu, Kaduna, Borno and FCT as well as representatives of civil society organisations.
This training also afforded the participants to learn from new Modules on how to handle uncertainties in Crisis Communication; how they can understand and cover the risk during a pandemic, managing Panic in a Pandemic, tips on How to Cover a Pandemic amongst others essentials.
Participants recognised that:
While the media have been involved in the coverage of COVID-19 response in the country, only very little has been done to show how the pandemic is affecting the lives of the average Nigerian.
The media and journalists lack the requisite tools to cope with the challenges and new realities thrown up by the pandemic, a situation that has made many journalists rely on the dry statistics daily churned out by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, the Presidential Task Force and the task forces in the states across the country.
While there are no known protocols barring journalists from revealing the identities of persons recovering or affected by COVID-19 in Nigeria, state actors and politicians have continued to keep the information away from members of the public. Reference was made to the New York Times that published all the names of persons who have contracted the virus, those who recovered and those who succumbed to it.
Media organisations in Nigeria are yet to properly adjust to the new realities of operating in the COVID-19 environment, including the adoption of containment protocols into operational systems and provision of PPE and specialised gadgets for reporters.
Human interest angles in the reportage of the COVID-19 realities in the country are still largely unexplored by journalists.
The strategy adopted by the PTF, NCDC and task forces at the state levels in handling the COVID-19 response plan has created doubt in the minds of not only members of the public but also among journalists in the country.
There has been inadequate training for journalists in Nigeria as far as COVID-19 reportage is concerned.
The accountability and transparency mechanisms in the Federal and state governments’ COVID-19 spending do not factor in information sharing with the public.
While majority of journalists in the country are forced to take pay cuts without requisite insurance coverage, media owners have compelled them to work longer and under situations which may expose them to the dreaded coronavirus.
At the end of the training, participants resolved that Journalists should:
Strive to dig deeper into the story behind the data and find answers to the many unanswered questions in the minds of Nigerians on COVID-19; apart from relaying on updates from government sources, concerned agencies and health care professionals at the frontlines, journalists also should probe further to uncover facts regarding the novel coronavirus disease to keep citizens better informed.
Live with the realities imposed by COVID19 by deploying new strategies to execute their work; engage in investigative reporting, write more local stories and provide the human angle to every report.
Realise that they are also vulnerable to the coronavirus and should, therefore, ensure they do not become the news in the course of duty by observing all known safety protocols.
Learn to apply psychological first aid to members of the public through their stories, be mindful of their storytelling approach while reporting COVID19. The essence of news report in a pandemic is to inform, educate and restore hope, not fear.
Media Owners should:
Provide adequate incentives as well as other protective gears for Reporters going out to cover stories. Salaries should be paid when due to encourage productivity.
Explore new business models and sustainability strategies in the face of dwindling advert revenue.
Government and relevant MDAs should:
Look inward; work with scientists and researchers while also paying attention to alternative medicine.
Take steps to publish names and locations of persons who have recovered and or succumb to the pandemic as part of measures to make the public believe COVID-19 is real but can be treated.
Respect the provisions of the FOI Act and provide journalists relevant information they need for their reports; this includes information on sources of funding and their expenditure.
Work more closely with Civil Society Organisations, faith-based groups, the media and local communities in the implementation of response plans and processes.
CSOs and NGOs should:
Continue to scale up advocacy on transparency and accountability in the application of COVID-19 funds and programmes.
Work closely with the media particularly on capacity building as ActionAid Nigeria has done; so, as to equip reporters with the necessary skills needed to cope with the new normal brought about by the pandemic.
These recommendations were jointly endorsed by representatives of organisations present.
BUK FM Kano
Dream 92.5FM Enugu
Comfort 95.1 FM
Guarantee Radio Kano
Solid 100.9 FM Enugu
Inspiration 105.9 FM Uyo
Kano State Radio Corporation
The Cable Newspaper
Arm Forces Radio
Centre for Communication and Social Impact (CCSI)
Journalist Against Poverty (JAP)
International Centre for Investigative Reporting.
Next Edition Newspaper