The Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, FCT Council, has cautioned security agencies against using the Coronavirus, COVID-19, lockdown to harass journalists as they go about their lawful duties.
The council gave the warning in a statement by its Secretary, Ochiaka Ugwu, on Tuesday in Abuja.
It urged the security personnel to respect journalists as essential service providers and a major partner in the efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19 In the country.
The council called on heads of security agencies in the FCT to caution their officers and men against harassing journalists in the discharge of their duties as the lockdown lasts.
“Officers should desist henceforth from misusing the situation to restrict or punish media personnel.
“They should also ensure that measures to tackle the disease are not used as a pretext to hinder free flow of news and information nor hinder media freedom,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had earlier announced that identity cards of media personnel should serve as their pass during the lockdown.
The council wondered why security agents would harass its members upon displaying their ID cards as directed by the authority.
It also called on media owners to provide preventive kits and sanitisers to their crews and ensure only experienced reporters are made to handle critical reports at this period.
The council however urged members to maintain social distancing at their live interview programmes.
It also called on media managers to allow colleagues work from home except when absolutely necessary to come to office or studio.
“However, NUJ FCT remains very committed to ensuring that any act to suppress free flow of news and information would be challenged even after the lockdown.
“Council has also raised a Seven-Man-Committee to systematically monitor the activities of our members as well as their challenges during this period with aim of containing them,” he said.