The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has demanded a retraction and an apology from an online newspaper that first published a report that he contracted the COVID-19 virus and is receiving treatment in isolation.
In a press statement issued on Sunday, the minister said he did contract COVID-19 and could not have been in isolation receiving treatment as reported by the online publication.
The statement was signed and made available to newsmen by Mr Segun Adeyemi, Special Assistant to the President (Media), Office of the Minister.
According to the statement, the “fake report had caused the minister some embarrassment, especially in a season of joy” and he, therefore, demanded a retraction of the story and apology from the online newspaper in the best tradition of journalism.
As contained in the statement, the minister was at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) 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 organisations are deployed.
“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 statement read.
It added: “As a member of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, the Minister has the added responsibility of leading by example.
“He 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”.
The minister noted in the statement that the report highlighted the uphill task the government was facing in the campaign to stamp out fake news and misinformation in the country.
“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.
Mohammed, therefore, admonished the media to desist from doing itself a great disservice by “making exclusive news out of beer parlour gist”.