Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has dismissed speculations that he had contracted COVID-19 and was being treated for the virus.
He observed the online publication, which had been “latched on to by some mainstream media, once again highlights the uphill task the government faces in our campaign to stamp out fake news and misinformation.”
A statement issued yesterday in Abuja by his Special Assistant on Media, Segun Adeyemi, stated: “The attention of the office of the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has been drawn to a report making the rounds that he has contracted the COVID-19 virus and that he is now in isolation, where he is receiving treatment. For the record, the minister does not have COVID-19, hence he is neither in isolation nor receiving treatment anywhere. 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.”
He noted that his principal was at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday and the extraordinary version the day, 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 organisations 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”?
The media aide continued: “As a member of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) 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 stigmatisation.
“In the best tradition of journalism, we expect the online newspaper behind this fake news not only to retract the publication but also to apologise to the minister for causing him such embarrassment, especially in a season of joy.”