By Jonathan Ugbal
The Association of Cross River Online Journalists, ACROJ has shut down it secretariat in view of the rising cases of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, a statement signed by its Chairman, Edem Darlington and Secretary, Jeremiah Archibong issued on Wednesday read.
This comes on the heels of a call by the Executive Director of the International Press Center, (IPC) Lagos, Lanre Arogundade on Monday for journalists to be protected while covering the pandemic.
The Nigerian Center for Disease Control on Wednesday announced five more cases of the disease bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 51 of which 48 are active with one death recorded.
And, the ACROJ leadership says despite the fact the legality of the directive of the Cross River State government which bans gatherings of more than five is yet to be determined, it was necessary to take all precautionary measures to ensure “the lives of members and staff of affiliate organizations are protected.”
The statement regretted the inconveniences the action may have caused members and Nigerians who now embrace the work of its members and “view their platforms as a means of sharing their views and getting news, views and analysis of events and activities relating to the Cross River state.”
The leadership also cautioned members to be careful in their coverage of the pandemic and aid in the sensitization of readers to prevent panic.
The closure is expected “to last for two weeks with a review to be carried out” upon the expiration of the two weeks, the statement added.
The IPC had in a statement signed its communication’s officer, Olutoyin Ayoade called on public and private media proprietors to provide journalists covering the COVID-19 health crisis in Nigeria with necessary protective gadgets and medications where required.
The statement quoted Mr. Arogundade as saying that journalists are among professionals who are always on duty during crisis situations as we currently have and their safety should therefore be accorded very high priority.
“From provision with protective wears and adequate supply of basics such as hand sanitizers, nothing can be too much to do for journalists on the field at this moment”, Mr. Arogundade said in a statement today.
According to him, journalists covering COVID-19 also deserve to be placed on a special insurance package.
HE also advised journalists to avail themselves of all the health tips on avoiding COVID-19 infection especially as outlined by global health bodies and national health institutions.
“Journalists should apply necessary caution so as not to expose themselves to avoidable health risk in the understandable urge to cover breaking stories on the pandemic”, he stressed.
Furthermore, he charged journalists and other media professionals to exercise professional restraint and ensure that all supposed breaking stories on Covid-19 are fact-checked to mitigate the spread of false or misleading information.
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