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Journalists Narrate Experiences Working During Covid-19 Lockdown In Nigeria 



The mental and physical stress covering news during conflicts can be very strainous and challenging for journalists. However, many journalists in Nigeria say working during the Covid-19 brought a new level of challenge.
While workers in various sectors had the luxury of working from their homes during the lockdown, journalists and cameramen have to be in the thick of action,  risking it all.
Working during this Covid-19 lockdown have exposed media personnel in Nigeria to various risk of contracting the Coronavirus as well as harassment from security operatives. Not fewer than 10 journalists in Nigeria have been infected with the Coronavirus.
Most Nigerian journalists do not enjoy health insurance and enjoy very poor pay packages. Journalists do not enjoy any form of hazard allowance even though they have been declared as frontline workers by the government.
Yet, nearly all those who  had to work during the pandemic, do so without adequate Personal protective equipment.
Friday Okeregbe is a journalist with Channels Television, says news reporting during the Covid-19 has been the most risky he has undertaken in his career as a journalist
He says of his experience, “Working unprotected and uninsured during this pandemic  is one the most risky undertaking in my years of practice. I termed it one of the most risky experience because every other similar experiences like covering violent protests,  militancy in the Niger Delta and a few trip to the northeast to cover Boko haram activities have a  ‘known enemy’ that is physical.
“However, covering the covid- 19  pandemic, especially the daily  briefing by the PTF, whose members are highly exposed to the disease is like fighting with an invincible enemy.”
Like Okerebge, many other journalists say as Covid-19 spreads, so do the levels of anxiety. Journalists don’t know, who and what to trust, and how to stay safe – physically and mentally. This is indeed uncertain times.
Bulak Afsa, a journalists with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in Bauchi state told LEADERSHIP that “as a Journalists, I have covered many outbreaks like Cholera, measles in children and Lassa among others, but covering Covid-19 is different for many reasons.
Bauchi state is among the states in Nigeria where the governor, Bala Mohammed was infected with the virus.
Asfa said further of her experience, “The authorities concerned were not ready when the pandemic hit the country, little was known about the virus and as such journalists like me found it difficult, since the pandemic readiness was not there.”
She opined that the novel virus also took her by surprised adding that; “initially the right information was not circulating, health personnel were not granting interviews and the entire thing was cumbersome, but gradually things are improving.”
Ishola Michael who writes for Tribune Newspapers said “It has not been easy due to the fact that one cannot identify a carrier of the infection in order to be able to avoid him/her; couple with the fact that the Editor is on your neck waiting for the story.”
He said when Journalists read how their colleagues are getting infected in other climes, fear and apprehension mount.
“In fact, it was working under threat, fear and apprehension particularly with the stories coming in on how other Journalists are getting infected which leads to death sometimes.”
He said the media organizations were caught unawares, “and so did not prepare for it, but, with God we are gradually pulling through it.”
Ishola said although the coverage of the pandemic is quite challenging, but he personally “enjoyed every bit of the experience which has further toughened my professional determination and resolve to excel as a Journalist.”
Despite being declared as essential workers, many journalists faced harassment from security operatives enforcing the lockdown.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) threatened to boycott  coverage of the pandemic after Ivy Kanu, a correspondent with the TVC, along with several other journalists were detained by the police in Lagos on their way back from work during the lockdown.
Regina Otopka, the health correspondent for the New Telegraph Newspaper in Abuja said she has faced several harassment from security personnel herself.
She also said holding conferences and conducting interviews via online Applications such as Zoom was new and exciting.
Otopka also stressed the challenge of working from home.
She says, “first, there are visible distractions that deter constructive output if not put in proper perspective. Especially noise from neighbours and children around.
“Also, in the lockdown resources spent on calls and data can not be quantified. Rather than use events as opportunity to generate reports or get experts reactions, I had to resort to running phone interviews on a daily basis to generate news reports, seek reaction to issues or join in meetings using the zoom app.”