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COVID-19: A’ Ibom journalists to boycott government activities over stigmatization of members   

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By Dennis Udoma, Uyo

Journalists in the National newspapers stable in Akwa Ibom State have vowed to stop publicising government activities for barring them from covering events at Government House over COVID-19.

The government yesterday stopped reporters,  including correspondents,  from covering the swearing in of 8 new members of the State Executive Council (SEC) and inauguration of elected executive of the State Chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Both events were scheduled to take place at the Banquet Hall of Government House at 12 noon and 3pm respectively.

Chairman of the Correspondents Chapel of Nigeria Union of Journalists,  Akwa Ibom State Council, Idongesit Ashameri in her swift reaction condemned the State government action saying, it was preposterous that government could bar journalists from doing their work.

According to her, “it was hypocritical that government could allow party loyalists, well wishers and members of interest groups to attend the two events even in the face of the Covid-19 scare without observing the preventive protocols of the pandemic”.

She said that stopping journalists’ from covering activities at the Government House  because of Covid-19 amounted to stigmatimazition and slight on the integrity of the press as watch dogs of the country’s democracy.

She maintained that, journalists are not the real carriers of Covid-19 adding that journalists are rather the victims of the pandemic who are exposed to politicians and government officials suspected to be the carriers.

” As people midwifing the democracy, we know that the media as the Fourth Estate of the Realm has been at the forefront of projecting government activities and when COVID-19 broke out in Nigeria the media were at the forefront of the battle.

“And Incidentally we noticed that COVID-19 first started attacking the High and Mighty in the World, especially prominent government officials and Nigerians because, media practitioners work closely with these prominent Nigerians were therefore not spared from the hazard.

“And after the incident I heard about stigmatization against the media by the state government, but I never knew that journalists in the state  will sustain a permanent scar over something some of them contracted while working with the primary victims.

“I got the shock of my life today  when I discovered that two prominent events in the State , the swearing in of the 8 new members of State Executive Council and Swearing in of the new State Exco of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, that no member of the Correspondents’ Chapel was invited to cover that event.

“And when I probed further I was told that it is because media men have contracted the virus. Who should we really blame? This is a gloabal pandemic ravaging the world and the media are members of the society.

“The leadership of Correspondents’ Chapel, Akwa Ibom State chapter unanimously condemned this act of stigmatization of members.

“Knowing too well we were taking risks but, we felt obligated to our duties and to our organizations. If this act of stigmatization continues we will be left with no other option than to boycott state government activities”.

The outgoing Commissioner for information,  Mr. Charles Udoh,  when contacted yesterday while at a State function said,  “I can’t speak right now”.

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