Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State today barred journalists in the State from covering the inauguration of new members of the State Executive Council as well as the newly elected executive of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which held at the Banquet Hall of the Government House, Uyo, over COVID-19 scare.
But Correspondents of national newspapers in the State during an editorial meeting held at the Chapel’s secretariat on Monday expressed reservations over the government’s decision.
The members who described such move as stigmatization threatened to boycott the report of government activities going forward.
Chairman of the Correspondents Chapel in the state, Comrade Idongesit Ashameri of Daily Independent Newspapers wondered why the government could allow party loyalists, well-wishers and members of interest groups to attend the two inaugurations but barred journalists from performing their duties.
She said that stopping correspondents from covering activities at the Government House amounted to stigmatization and a slight on the watchdog role of the media in the country’s democracy.
She further said that journalists are not the real carriers of COVID-19, rather the victims of the pandemic since have been politicians and government officials.
According to her, “as those who midwifed the democracy we are all enjoying today, we know that the media as the Fourth Estate of the realm has been at the fore-front of projecting government activities. When COVID-19 started in Nigeria, the media were at the fore-front 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 and because the media practitioners work closely with these prominent Nigerians, we were not spared from the hazard.
“At the end of the day, a lot of us were exposed to the risk. In Akwa Ibom State Government House, about 16 members of the Press Corps attached to big men were affected by COVID-19.
“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 Peoples 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 blamed? This is a global pandemic ravaging the world and the media are members of the society.
“The leadership of Correspondents’ Chapel, Akwa Ibom State chapter unanimously, strongly condemn this development, this act of stigmatization.
“We knew we were taking risks, but we felt obligated to our duties to our various organizations. And if this act of stigmatization continues, we will be left with no other option than to boycott state government activities”.