The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has described report making the rounds that he has contracted the Covid-19 virus as fake news and false.
Alhaji Mohammed in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP on Sunday in Abuja said he did not contract the Covid-19 virus and that he is not in isolation, where he is receiving treatment as reported.
The minister said that the report, which was first published by an online newspaper and then latched on to by some mainstream lapdog media, once again highlights the uphill task the government face in its campaign to stamp out fake news and misinformation.
The statement reads in part: “The attention of the office of the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has been drawn to a report making the rounds that he has contracted the COVID-19 virus and that he is now in isolation, where he is receiving treatment.
“For the record, the Minister does not have Covid-19, hence he is neither in isolation nor receiving treatment anywhere.”
Quoting a journalism mantra he said, “when in doubt, leave it out.”
Also, he said as embedded in the code of ethics for journalists “are the basic principles of truthfulness and accuracy, among others.”
He stressed that the report in question did not meet those standards.
“The minister was at the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, an extraordinary FEC meeting on Thursday and also witnessed the swearing-in of the Minister of State for Works and Housing on Friday.
“All these events took place at the Villa, where the correspondents of many media organizations are deployed. In fact, the minister coordinated the post-FEC press briefing on Wednesday and Thursday. Could he have done this from the imaginary isolation centre where he was consigned by a mischievous reporter?
“As a member of the Presidential Steering Committee on Covid-19, the Minister has the added responsibility of leading by example, hence would not have hesitated to publicly announce his Covid-19 status if indeed he has contracted the virus. After all, he is not only fully vaccinated, he has also taken the booster shot, a situation that offers him different layers of protection even if he contracts the virus. For those who contract the virus, they deserve our empathy and prayers, not stigmatization.”
He said if the media does itself a great disservice by making ‘exclusive news’ out of beer parlor gist, sooner or later, the truth will come out and a fake-news-peddling organization will have its credibility dented for good.
“In the best tradition of journalism, we expect the online newspaper behind this fake news not only to retract the publication but also to apologize to the Minister for causing him such embarrassment, especially in a season of joy,” he added.