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By Elfredah Kevin-Alerechi
When Journalists and other media personnel globally were commemorating World Press Freedom Day, a Nigerian Journalist had been confirmed positive of coronavirus at the Sokoto Isolation Centre, receiving treatment for COVID-19 .
Abdallah El-Kurebe is a Science Journalist and an editor who has been practicing and covering health and the environment for 25 years.
Abdallah, the editor of Newsdairyonline, had been creating awareness among Journalists in Sokoto state since the outbreak of coronavirus in Nigeria to social distance themselves and to use face masks and he had been conscious himself.
He was asymptomatic and didn’t know he had the virus until he voluntarily went for testing after the death of his friend and colleague who fell ill and died.
Speaking to NewsWireNGR about how he feels about Journalists ignoring some of the safety measures recommended by the World Health Organizations when carrying out their duties, he sadly recalled that some Journalists still doubt the number of coronavirus cases recorded in Nigeria.
Sharing his experience in covering COVID-19, Abdallah says ” I am a science Journalist, and for science, I have covered health, environment and Agriculture internationally. And I know that science journalist should be prepared for things like this. And I know that most newsrooms do not have science desk… This COVID-19 came to us like a surprise for our health Journalists to cover it properly because the story is virtually non-existence and Journalists we are becoming more afraid because the training is not there to cover epidermic or pandemic like this. And it is a big challenge. You find Journalists that covers politics and business been drafted to cover COVID-19, is a big problem.”
Could he have done anything to avoid contacting the virus? ” In the first place, if you work where there are many colleagues and these colleagues are not as careful as you and you get in contact with those that have probably contracted the virus because of their carelessness, you stand a chance to also been infected.” He responds
“Simply because a colleague comes to share and information or to ask a question and unknown to you he is infected.
I am sure that I have been conscious and I have been conscious too. I think it happens as a result of a lift I gave to a colleague who was infected. Although, we both wore a mask but I don’t know how it happens but it happens.
Just Like the first index case in sokoto who tested positive and never knew because he had no travel history and he is not known to have come contact with anybody who has been infected., so I will say I cant think about anybody apart from that very colleague who is late.
Did you tested because your colleague tested positive?
No. Like I said, I have been advocating for Journalists to get tested and I was persuading this late colleague from another medium that we should go for Testing. So, I decided to test and the result came out positive within 24hours
The colleague is a Journalist from another medium. The colleague result came out positive of COVID-19 After his death.” He added.
On his feelings about testing Positive he says: “Infact, I feel very strong because I am a science Journalist who knows that my health is my priority and that is why I voluntarily went to test for COVID-19. Infact, my publisher has been very good to me. He has always advised me to be watchful and not to mingle myself with people while covering assignment and that alone gave me strength and hope even now that I have tested positive”
He advised media colleagues to be conscious about their own safety and put their lives first before telling the story. You have to be alive before you can report. He said.
Media Organizations have a role to play. Although, salaries is a big problem but if Institutions like the International Press centre and so on should ensure that Journalists are trained especiallay those who have interest in reporting science, health and so on. You have to indicate interest before he could be invited to training.
Journalists should learn to keep safe. We have to be alive to report. If a Journalist dies, which ever media organization you belong, If not for the government organization, what benefit will you get? There is no salary when you are alive and when you die there will be no gratuity .So we have to thread with caution, internationally, we are covered with life insurance and this is not practised in Nigeria and in government organization, this thing doesn’t happen.
Abdallah advocates for Journalists to have life insurance, especially those who are on the field.
He also asked that The Federal Ministry of health, as well as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control should work closely with Journalists to ensure that misinformation is avoided.
He asked that PPE be provided for journalists covering COVID-19 in the field as they are also essential workers.
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