The Nigerian Guild of Editors yesterday urged the Federal Government to exempt all categories of media staff from the COVID-19 stay-at-home restriction which takes effect tomorrow. The Guild in a statement by its President, Mustapha Isah and General Secretary, Mary Atolagbe condemned the harassment of drivers of newspaper distribution vans by overzealous security agents in some states.
It noted that media personnel are rendering essential services and journalists should be commended for carrying out their constitutional mandate of sourcing stories and monitoring compliance with government directives in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, instead of being harassed. The guild called on governments “that have declared one form of lockdown or the other, being measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, to appropriately educate the security agents drafted to enforce the restrictions, on the essential nature of media duties.”
It expressed worry that “some security agents, who may not be sufficiently knowledgeable about the operations of media houses, may find it difficult to determine the categories of print and electronic staff who cannot work from home.” “In the light of this potential friction, the Guild is calling on the Nigerian Government to exempt all categories of media staff from the COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions and hereby enjoins journalists to carry their means of identification as they undertake their duties, to eliminate the chances of being harassed by security operatives.”
The guild also noted that Nigeria could not afford a total lockdown at this time, adding, “People should be allowed to move within their neighbourhoods to access Pharmacies, fuel stations and other basic needs.”