…Of COVID-19, fake news and charity
Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, that started in Wuhan, China, late last year, has spread to many countries of the world with over 787,000 cases, while more than 37,000 deaths have been reported across the world.
Some countries and regions have been hit harder than others. In many areas, daily life has come to a halt, economies have been badly affected and medical facilities are almost becoming insufficient to cater for victims as more cases are recorded daily.
In Africa, as of the time of writing, South Africa has recorded 927 cases and two deaths; Algeria 305 cases and one death, Burkina Faso 146 and three deaths, Ghana 132 and three deaths, and Senegal 105 with no death. Meanwhile, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control noted that 131 cases have been confirmed with 33 active cases, and two death cases recorded. Indeed, this is a trying time for humans across the globe.
Lamentably, while efforts are being directed towards the curbing of COVID-19 attack on humanity, fake news has decided to, at the same time, unleash its terror on us too. The proliferation and viral spread of fake news – false information passed off as factual – is a global problem that is empowered by Information and Communication Technology that enables near-instant and easily disguised messaging.
Fake news peddlers and enablers had remarked and shared the news that coronavirus could not harm the black African person and could not survive in a hot region like sub-Saharan Africa. However, with the death of Suleiman Achimugu, a former MD of Pipeline and Product Marketing Company, a subsidiary of NNPC, that assertion has proved to be fake news.
Similarly, after U.S. President Donald Trump praised the anti-malaria drug as a treatment for COVID-19, social media went agog with the fake news that chloroquine had been tested as an antidote to the virus. Consequently, a number of people began to abuse the drugs as demand for the drug surged in Lagos. The senior health assistant to the governor of Lagos, Oreoluwa Awokoya, confirmed that two people were hospitalised in the state for chloroquine overdoses – that is one of the menaces of fake news.
Even through the Twitter handle, “@BusinessDayNg”, fake news was tweeted with the headline, “CORONAVIRUS: Buhari approved N30,000 relief package to Nigerians with BVN”. That wasn’t only misleading, it also gave a false hope. Well, the paper, through its editor, later apologised for the misinformation.
Most times, panic kills faster than pandemic! This quick death is always accelerated by the alarming rate at which fake news gets traction when a problem is at hand. This is where and when credible responsible journalism should set in.
Journalism is life and every practitioner of the trade should responsibly live it. This is because its principles are relevant to making life more meaningful, peaceful and fulfilling. The cardinal principles of truth, objectivity, balance and fairness that undergird journalism are not only good for journalists but also for everyone. In fact, that many journalists lack the five principles of ethical journalism, which are truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity and accountability, is responsible for the predominance of fake news and sensational reports that activate conflict and compromise peaceful coexistence in our society- fake news kills; kill fake news!
Importantly, the COVID-19 pandemic marks an unprecedented time in modern history that will require the best of humanity to overcome. The coronavirus has taken thousands of lives and spread to nearly every country in the world. There have been reports of charity all over the US and Europe. Companies are giving away their resources to help the vulnerable. And some organisations are converting their outfits into medical facilities to help combat the pandemic.
Giving or being charitable is a virtue that everyone has to cultivate. It doesn’t really matter who you give and what you give, the essential thing is to be charitable and kind. An old adage says, “Givers never lack” as what goes round comes round in their own favour too. Even when there was no case of isolation, many people do not have much to feed on let alone now. It would be human at best to give a helping hand to people around us at a time like this. Probably, that is why the Juventus star, Cristiano Ronaldo, has followed the example of Jorge Mendes and started to buy medical equipment for São João de Oporto to fight coronavirus in his country, Portugal. Jack Ma has extended a helping hand to Nigeria. And commendably too, Folorunso Alakija, Tony Elumelu, Mike Adenuga, Femi Otedola and a number of people have followed suit too.
Coronavirus is a disaster of cosmic proportions. It has shut everywhere down. The whole world has been brought to its knees by this pandemic. It is, indeed, a trying time for the entire human race, obedience and compliance with the directives of medical experts and government should be completely followed in order to arrest this ugly monster- COVID-19.
In this moment of isolation, charity should be encouraged. If you have in abundance, kindly spare the needy some relief materials.
Folorunso Fatai, Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State