The role of the media in the Covid-19 campaign in Nigeria | The Guardian Nigeria News


Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic epidemic in 2019, there has been a global wave of co-extension of an infodermic of disinformation in the management of the COVID-19 crisis.

This misinformation has gained popularity across various platforms, and in particular through opinion leaders in corporations.

United States Secretary-General, UN António Guterres, warned earlier in 2020 that “Our common enemy is # COVID19, but our enemy is also an ‘infodemic’ of disinformation. To defeat the #coronavirus, we urgently need to promote facts and science, hope and solidarity rather than desperation and division. “

As explained by the World Health Agency, infomedicine occurs when people are exposed to an excessive amount of information about a problem, which could make it difficult to identify a solution.

Despite several campaigns and efforts to fight the infodemic, the scourge has turned into sabotaging the interventions developed to manage and stop the spread of the pandemic, in particular the use of vaccines.

The President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, warned in July that the proliferation of disinformation on social media is a serious problem and “is killing people.”

From the magnet theory to the infertility proposition, there have been several conspiracy theories that have no doubt taken hold of the minds of a section of the population.

In March, a report said that anti-vaccine campaigners on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter had reached “over 59 million followers, making them the most important and important social media platforms for anti-vaccine. vaccines ”.

According to the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), one in two people in Africa agree that COVID-19 is an event planned by a foreign actor.

According to a household survey by Nigeria Health Watch, the spread of misinformation has played a significant role in influencing people’s preliminary decisions about whether or not to get vaccinated.

Jumoke Adedina, a 500-level student at Federal University of Technology, Minna said she would never take the vaccine given all the resources she had gathered from the media on the various potential dangers of the vaccine.

Speaking to Mary Okagbor, Executive Director of OkpellaTV, an online community television in Edo State; she shared that a large percentage of Okpella residents still don’t believe the virus could kill them.

She received various comments from community members as she worked on a media campaign to raise awareness in the community, including that the virus was premeditated as part of plans to create a new world order.

“It takes more effort than I thought, to convince people of their shaky conviction”

Some people who received the vaccine also had some of the fear orchestrated by the news consumed on social media.

Mistura Badru, a chemical engineer in Lagos state, said she was skeptical after watching the video of the COVID-19 vaccine magnet, but her sister who works as a doctor assured her of the safety of the vaccines .

In an African News report, Aniette Patrick, a journalist, finds the issue of trust a huge challenge for most Nigerians because leadership has been a major challenge and people tend not to trust the system. in place.

“In Nigeria, I guess the nonchalant attitude is one thing and the lack of confidence is another, people think that what the government gives because vaccines may not be the same as other people get it. is the understanding of the common man and I think that is the main factor, ”she added

Reluctance to vaccinate is not new in Nigeria, in 2003 five northern states boycotted the oral polio vaccine over rumors that it was unsafe.

WHO defines vaccine reluctance as a delay in accepting or rejecting vaccines despite the availability of immunization services.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 vaccine materials and the normalization of dangerous lies has been a major trigger for reluctance to face the COVID-19 vaccine.

This is not only peculiar to ordinary people, even major political players have openly expressed their position in line with vaccine reluctance. For example, former Tanzanian President John Magufuli questioned the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in January 2021, even denying the existence of SARS-CoV-2 in his country.

Additionally, Wilcox Onyemekeihia, the programs secretary of the senior special adviser on youth affairs in Cross River state in Nigeria, maintained remarks that support an anti-vaccine stance on social media.

In March 2021, a popular Nigerian pastor, Chris Oyakhilome, was sanctioned by the United Kingdom’s Office of Communications (Ofcom) for spreading disinformation about COVID-19 during his program.

While traditional media such as newspapers, television and radio have helped improve the COVID-19 campaign, most of the misinformation messages come from social media, a medium that has become the default medium to access information by several people.

As of January 2021, Nigeria alone had around 33 million active social media users. Recent data showed that there were 4.48 billion social media users worldwide as of July 2021, nearly 57% of the total world population.

With this population on social networks, it becomes necessary to conduct a strong campaign to verify the information disseminated on the various media.

In research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, NCBI, the research result showed that 80% of research correspondents were ready to accept the COVID-19 vaccine once it is considered safe and effective.

At the end of 2020 and the beginning of this year, awareness campaigns sponsored by government organizations and businesses were broadcast in all media, such as the mask campaign, Powerful HANDS, Stay Safe.

Of observation, the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 is not very active compared to the previous awareness campaign of Covid-19 at its beginnings of the government.

In a presentation by Dr Bakanawa Garba Bello, Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Disease Control and Immunization of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the government designed rumor management for the process. response to COVID-19 and the vaccination campaign. Despite these and other efforts, there is still a deficit of government-sponsored media campaigns for the vaccine in the country compared to the disinformation unleashed in the media.

Kingsley Bassey, broadcast journalist and creative entrepreneur, said the government needs to be creative in the way it designs and blows the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

Beyond the limits of the press conference and other traditional tactics, he said the government needs to explore the trends and consumption of popular media such as comic content, internet memes to educate the people.

“States like Lagos do well with its use of IEC such as billboards, posters, but it is not effective enough to reach people in rural communities. You will be surprised at the number of people who do not yet know the COVID-19 vaccine ”.

Oyinkasola Sadiq-Mabeko, a content producer, said the role of the media has shifted from providing information to dealing with misinformation, disinformation and the epidemic of fake news, especially on platforms like WhatsApp. She added that the media need to improve their game to ensure factual news is just as viral, if not more so, than fake news.

Regarding the current Covid-19 vaccine, she said the acceptance rate is still low. “If people hear from the government through various channels more frequently, they may be more inclined to receive the dose.”

When Mistura Badru’s body reacted to the first dose of the vaccine, she was able to cope with her fear due to a prior understanding of some of the side effects of the vaccine.

Appropriate information about the vaccine, especially the likely reaction, can help people deal with their internalized fear and reduce reliance on misinformation.

When planning campaigns, it is important to take into account different groups in society, including the illiterate, the elderly, locals and people with disabilities when choosing the channel, language and campaign tactics. .

To deal with the threat of disinformation, Oyinkansola advised the media to collaborate and complement the ongoing efforts of organizations such as Africa Check, Fact Check Hub and Cable News, which have dedicated a desk in their media offices to verification of facts and false information.

Initiatives such as the International Center for Journalism Fellowship for Fact Checking are also expected to be replicated by several media-focused organizations to tackle the epidemic of fake news, especially in social media spaces.


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