26th December, 2021
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has lashed the media over fake reports that he had contracted Covid-19.
He not only denied the report, but also attempted to school journalists on the elements of truthful reporting.
He said this in a statement on Sunday signed by Segun Adeyemi, his spokesman and adviser.
Lai Mohammed said he would have disclosed he tested positive for Covi-19 being a member of the Presidential Steering Committee.
“For the record, the Minister does not have Covid-19, hence he is neither in isolation nor receiving treatment anywhere. That report, which was first published by an online newspaper and then latched on to by some mainstream media, once again highlights the uphill task we face in our campaign to stamp out fake news and misinformation.
“A journalism mantra says ‘when in doubt, leave it out’. Also embedded in the code of ethics for journalists are the basic principles of truthfulness and accuracy, among others. 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.
“In the best tradition of journalism, we expect the online newspaper behind this 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.”