Of Coronavirus, fake news and charity

THE coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, that started in Wuhan, China, late last year has spread to many countries of the world. Coronavirus cases have crossed 330,000, while more than 14,000 deaths have been reported across the world as Europe becomes the new omphalos of coronavirus.  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, according to the reports from CNN, “There are now more than 100 cases recorded in 11 countries in Africa, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation. Egypt remains the nation with the most reported cases with 59, more than half of all confirmed cases on the continent.” Meanwhile, the Nigerian Centre for Disease control (NCDC) noted that 42 cases have been confirmed with 33 active cases, two(2) patients discharged and a death has been recorded. Indeed, this is a trying time for humans across the globe- a pandemic season.

Lamentably, while efforts are being directed toward 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 communications technology that enables near-instant and easily disguised messaging. Fake news peddler and enablers have remarked on 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, the former MD of Pipeline and Product Marketing Company, that assertion has proven to be fake news.

Similarly, after U.S. President Donald Trump praised the anti-malaria drug as a treatment for the novel coronavirus;  social media went agog with the fake news that chloroquine has tested as antidote to COVID-19. 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 Lagos for chloroquine overdoses- that is one of the menaces of fake news. 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 new coronavirus has taken thousands of lives and spread to nearly every country in the world. There have been reports of charity all over the United States 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 is that “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 best to give a helping hand to people around us at the moment. As an adage rightly counsels, “charity begins at home”. 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. Regardless of one’s level of education, opulence and accomplishments, if one does not imbibe the culture of giving, one’s education and accomplishments are meaningless. The strength of one’s character lies in the ability to give: charity. Above all, it is a trying time all over the world. We have got to jointly fight the monster that is terrorising the globe by obeying the directive of the government, maintaining social distance, washing our hands and avoiding touching our face. We should visit medical centres when we feel strange symptoms, give relief materials to people around us and restrain ourselves from sharing fake news. In the end, the spread of this disease cease, peace will reign and everything good will come.

  • Folorunso, a corps member, writes in from the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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