By Samuel Ogenyi, Uyo
Correspondents of national newspapers in Akwa Ibom have threatened to boycott activities of the state government over government’s decision to bar them from covering events at the Government House Uyo because of COVID-19.
The government had on Monday stopped reporters, including correspondents, from covering the swearing in of eight 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 hold at the State Banquet of the Government House at 12 noon and 3pm respectively.
But the Chairman of the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State Council, Comrade Idongesit Ashameri said it was preposterous that government could bar reporters from performing their duties.
Ashameri maintained that 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.
She said that stopping correspondents from covering activities at the Government House because of Covid-19 amounted to stigmatimazition and a slight on the sacrosanct watch dog role of the media in the country’s democracy.
Ashameri, who maintained that journalists are not the real carriers of Covid-19, added that journalists are rather the victims of the pandemic who are exposed to politicians and government officials.
” 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.
“At the end of the day a lot of us were exposed to risk. In Akwa Ibom State Govermment 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 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, 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”. She said.
When contact, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Ekerette Udoh said that, “it is not true that journalists were barred from covering the swearing in ceremonies of both the State PDP Exco and the reconstituted State Executive Council respectively.
” If you had any difficulties at all, you should have contacted me. Please discountenance any such notion. Journalists are welcome at all times to the Government House, my office remains wide open to my colleagues at all times.”