Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed has accused the Nigerian media of fake news and scaremongering as the country battles to curb the spread ofCOVID-19.
The minister who said this at a news conference on Thursday noted that “epidemic of fake news is now competing with the pandemic of coronavirus”, adding that it was not helping in the fight against the disease.
He described as untrue the report that there are only two ventilators in Abuja, out of which one has been deployed for the treatment of a top government official who allegedly tested positive for the virus.
Muhammed added that the rumour that President Buhari has been coughing and now on ventilator is fake news, stressing that no British Airways Flight was due to land in Nigeria on Wednesday despite the closure of all international airports as widely speculated.
“A section of the traditional media has also been engaging in scaremongering and irresponsible reporting on the disease. It is wrong to speculate on those who are positive or negative for coronavirus without any empirical information. In any case, being positive to coronavirus is not a death sentence, as we can see around the world. There is no need for the kind of scaremongering we are seeing in a section of the media. The danger is that this scaremongering can even discourage some who may want to come forward for testing. We therefore wish to appeal to the media to be more circumspect in their reporting,” he said.
The minister commended the airlines that have suspended flight operations, and those that announced support for government’s efforts to tackle the disease.
Stressing that many private sectors have declared support for government in the fight against the disease, he called on organisations and individuals to cooperate with government.
“Gentlemen, we have noted the decision of at least five domestic airlines – Air Peace, Aero and Azman, Dana and Arik – to suspend their flight operations. The suspension is a boost for the efforts of the government to check the spread of the pandemic. Some of the airlines have also announced one form of support or another for the government’s efforts to tackle the pandemic. This is very commendable. We are aware of more private sector support to the FG and will be announcing this after full compilation. We seek the support and cooperation of more capable individuals and organizations in order to defeat this pandemic,” he stressed.
He called on Nigerians not to panic, describing it as the greatest enemy.
“The Federal Government is determined to work with the good people of Nigeria to defeat Covid-19. And defeat the disease we will,” he said.