The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) in partnership with Free Press Unlimited (FPU) has commenced a pilot project under its Free to Share initiative, in Nigeria. The project was launched virtually on Friday, 4 December 2020, with the commissioning of reporters who will execute stories under a mentor-mentee arrangement.
The ‘Free to share’ initiative is geared at broadening the scope of freedom of expression through engagements on media ethics and accountability journalism. This pilot project under the initiative will interrogate the intersection between COVID-19, access to information and misinformation by publishing data-driven, human interest investigative stories that will support the media to better provide access to information that informs, educates, and debunks misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic and its multifaceted impact on lives and livelihoods.
In his welcome statement at the meeting to introduce reporters to the project and share expectations required of them, WSCIJ’s Senior Programme Officer, Adeolu Adekola elaborated on the need for the project. He referred to the COVID-19 Reality Check project which WSCIJ commenced in April 2020. The project so far has produced 108 stories across different specialities. However, the Free to Share initiative is approaching the reportage of COVID-19 in Nigeria to improve challenges of access to relevant information about the impact and effect of the pandemic.
According to him, WSCIJ’s interest is to create awareness on the need to guard information and misconceptions about the coronavirus pandemic which has badly impacted countries globally, with many going into another lockdown to forestall further spread of the virus. He also stated the need to expand the frontiers of reporting by bringing forward its impact on marginalised groups and issues being faced.
Sharing experiences on access to information about COVID-19, some of the reporters highlighted the difficulty they encountered doing stories during the lockdown and the quality of news source that was available.
One of the two mentors and resource persons during the meeting, Funke-Treasure Durodola, former Assistant Director of Programmes, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Lagos Operations, recommended more reporting on the politics of COVID-19 and vaccine. The other mentor on the project is Adeboye Ola, Head, General Studies, Nigeria Institute of Journalism. The WSCIJ in its usual approach engaged persons who are seasoned media professionals as mentors.
The meeting also involved a breakout session which allowed the reporters to meet with, share their story ideas, and get input from the mentors assigned to them. Next steps on project implementation were also shared by the WSCIJ.
The selected reporters will undergo a one-month mentorship. They are expected to deliver stories that will address the exclusion of persons with disabilities under the different welfare programmes while evaluating the status of the distribution of palliatives, the effect of the pandemic on others with terminal conditions, as well as the dangers of the continuous violation of safety guidelines among others. The reporters will publish stories across various specialties such as print, online, photo and cartoon as part of the ‘Covid-19 Response in Africa: Together for Reliable information’ project funded by the European Union (EU).