Odusile to Buhari, AU: Treat journalists as COVID-19 front liners


Former President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the West African Journalists Association President, Abdulwaheed Odusile has called on President Muhammad Buhari and other African leaders to treat journalists as deserved heroes of COVID-19 era.

Odusile on Saturday, made the call while delivering a paper titled “Media and Survival Strategy Post COVID-19” during an international virtual migration summit organized by the Journalists International Forum for Migration (JIFORM).

The three-day event also had as speakers the National Public Relations Officer of Nigeria Immigration Service, Deputy Comptroller Sunday James, International Organization for Migration (IOM) Communication Official from Gambia, Mr. Miko Alazas and Professor Kanu Ikechukwu Anthony, O. S.A, the Rector of Villanova Polytechnic, Imesi-Ile, Osun State and all were lauded for their contributions by the President of JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi for impacting  positively on the over I50 migration journalists across the world.

The ex-NUJ President said media practitioners deserve whatever palliative and insurance scheme set aside for health workers in Nigeria and on African continent.

Speaking, Odusile said “at the moment, the world is focused on the pandemic of the novel Coronavirus and its associated disease ravaging the universe. With the exception of a few countries, virtually all the nations of the world have felt the rapid expansion and infection of the virus.

“The newsrooms across the globe are not even immune as a number of journalists, notable in India and even here in Nigeria have been stuck down by the virus. The media workforce, journalists and non-journalists alike have come under the pangs of this virus and its associated disease.

“I would like to state that the Nigeria Union of Journalists and all the other workers’ unions in the media should use this COVID -19 experience to draw up and get a comprehensive insurance package for journalists and other media workers.

“Like the frontline healthcare professionals/medics working to combat the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, journalists are also one of the frontline fighting coronavirus, gathering information for the public from the theatre of operation.”

He argued that whatever palliates or health insurance cover being given or planned for the frontline healthcare professionals, Journalists too deserve such.

“Our unions (NUJ, RATTAWU, NUPROW) leaders must seize the opportunity, think ahead and protect not just the jobs of their members but their health and wellbeing as well. My detour into the welfare of our members, workers in the media is deliberate” he said.

The former NUJ President while advising media to invest in technology ahead of post pandemic advised that: “As we are looking for the light at the end of COVID-19 dark tunnel, the media, including the owners, managers and workers must rethink their strategy as it will no longer be business as usual once the pandemic is over.

“The post COVID-19 media must draw a lesson from what is happening now that the pandemic is still with us and design the new normal for media business. The journalists, particularly their union, the NUJ, must do the same.

“The media must look seriously into this with a possibility of embracing it especially for field staff who don’t have to be in the office every day. Such worker would include editorial, advertising and marketing who could do their work from the convenience of their homes.

“To do this effectively, will involve investment in ICT and retraining of personnel. It may shock you to know that in this 21st century some journalists are still ICT illiterates out of sheer laziness and lack of desire for personal growth and development. They are still waiting for their employers to organize ICT training for them and also give the latest gadgets to work with.

“Most countries have introduced lockdowns as a way of slowing down the spread of the Coronavirus as they try to defeat the associated disease.”

Odusile said the lockdown had also presented the media with another opportunity to tinker and innovate with its marketing strategies.

“However, more work needs to be done on this to ensure that the media houses not only circulate their newspapers online to wider audiences, but also make additional money through subscriptions and other forms of payments.

“E-conferencing or virtual conferencing as we are having now looks to me to be part of that future for the media as we prepare for a post COVID-19 media world. Everyone does not have to be in one place at the same time to meet and take decisions. Daily editorial conferences in the newsrooms could be virtual and decisions taken”, he said.

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