By Shola Adewunmi
A leading Online Publisher, Femi Soneye, has commended the Federal Government for the stimulus package being initiated to cushion effects of COVID-19 on Nigerian media and the creative industry.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, also received a pat on the back for the expected intervention.
Soneye, Publisher and CEO of Persecondnews.com, gave the commendation in Abeokuta on Monday while presenting COVID-19 palliatives to the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Ogun State Council at the Press Centre, known as Iwe Irohin House.
Soneye, who was represented by Ayodele Akinsola, Persecondnews Managing Editor, said: “A recent bold step to give a stimulus package to the media and creative industry by the Hon. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is cheery news and a timely intervention amid COVID-19 pandemic.
“We urge the Minister to pursue this agenda to a logical conclusion.”
Describing the media as one of the tripod stands on which the nation’s democracy rests, thrives and flourishes, he urged journalists not to spare any effort in holding public officials accountable to the people.
He, however, pointed out that only accurate and factual reports could hold public officials accountable to the citizens.
He said: “Journalists, as members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm after the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, are empowered by Section 22 of Chapter two of the 1999 Constitution.
“Without free press and free speech, democracy is endangered.
“I recall with nostalgia our efforts and struggles on a heroic scale to fight the military to a standstill and return the country to constitutional democracy in 1999 have not been adequately rewarded and reciprocated by the political class with some of them scandalously harassing, brutalising and clamping down on the media.”
Still expounding the role of the media, the publisher added: “The media, in spite of its imperfections like democracy, are indispensable to the nation’s fledgling democracy of about 21 years and to the Nigeria Project.”
On the state of the Nigerian media, Soneye noted that the parlous state of the economy had caused thousands of journalists to lose their jobs due to permanent shut down of their organisations, while others are being owed one or two years salaries.
He said: “I wish, therefore, to make a passionate appeal to those in authority at all levels – federal, state and local government – to patronise the media – newspapers, magazines, online publications, radio and television stations – to stay afloat.”
On the COVID-19 pandemic, Soneye commended the media for its excellent coverage of the health crisis across the country in spite of the attendant risks to lives and urged them to continue to join forces with the government to rout the virus.
He said: “As experts and WHO have said, it is unlikely for the virus to go away soon.
“There is, therefore, the need for us as journalists to be COVID-19 protocol-compliant — stay safe, play safe, observe physical distancing, use your face mask, wash your hands and use sanitizers.”
Soneye also challenged journalists to report research findings and investigations on COVID-19 therapeutics, especially the local cure – herbal or orthodox – to defeat the virus.
Wale Oluokun, Secretary, Ogun State NUJ Caretaker Committee, who received the items on behalf of the chairperson, Omolola Adeyinka, thanked Persecondnews for the gesture, which he described as first of its kind.
Oluokun said: “It is quite novel and welcoming that journalists can look back and give back to the profession; it is equally commendable.
“Apart from the gifts, a strong message has been passed to us to take the fight against coronavirus seriously.”
Among the officers present at the presentation were Lekan Yinusa (Sweet FM), Bidemi Bello (Channels TV), Anthony Gandonu and Bunmi Adigun.