Me­dia tasked on sen­si­tive jour­nal­ism dur­ing elec­tions

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - MEDIA & MARKETING - By­mar­garet Mwan­tok Par­tic­i­pants at the print/on­line me­dia base­line as­sess­ment

IN or­der for Nige­rian me­dia to serve as cat­a­lyst for demo­cratic ac­count­abil­ity, cred­i­ble elec­tions, good gov­er­nance and one which up­hold eth­i­cal con­duct and cov­er­age of the 2019 elec­tions and the pro­cesses lead­ing to it, stake­hold­ers have stressed the need for jour­nal­ists to be con­ver­sant with the essence and chal­lenge of re­port­ing the elec­toral process. This would help so­ci­ety, it was also can­vased, to freely and fairly elect can­di­dates that would best rep­re­sent the peo­ple’s in­ter­ests.

While speak­ing re­cently at a round­table meet­ing on base­line as­sess­ment of the print and on­line me­dia re­port­ing of the 2015 elec­toral process, or­gan­ised by In­ter­na­tional Press Cen­tre (IPC), with the sup­port of Euro­pean Union (EU), the fo­rum ar­gued that me­dia own­er­ship, com­mer­cial­iza­tion and in­ad­e­quate reg­u­la­tory frame­work were some key fac­tors mit­i­gat­ing against cred­i­ble re­portage of elec­toral pro­cesses and elec­tions, as well as poor ser­vice con­di­tions of jour­nal­ists.

The project was aimed at es­tab­lish­ing pre­vi­ous trends in re­port­ing the elec­toral pro­cesses, iden­ti­fy­ing key gaps and rec­om­mend re­sources re­quired to bridge the ca­pac­ity needs of jour­nal­ists in re­port­ing the 2019 and fu­ture elec­toral process and elec­tions.

In the as­sess­ment, five na­tional news­pa­pers and two on­line pub­li­ca­tions, namely Thep­unch , Thisday,then­ation,dai­lytrust, Van­guard,pre­mi­um­times and The­ca­ble were used as case stud­ies. The find­ings in­di­cated that the is­sue of gen­der-sen­si­tiv­ity re­ceived scant at­ten­tion in all the sur­veyed pub­li­ca­tions. As stated by a par­tic­i­pant, Lawal Sabo Ibrahim, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Tri­umph Pub­lish­ing Com­pany, Kano, women are their own en­e­mies as they lack the spirit of to­geth­er­ness, adding, “They need to start see­ing them­selves as part­ners not op­po­nents.”

The re­port stated that most of the pub­li­ca­tions were sen­si­tive enough to em­pha­sis­ing the need to fol­low due process in elec­tion but left out other po­lit­i­cal as­pects. All the pub­li­ca­tions sur­veyed gave dis­pro­por­tion­ate ac­cess to two po­lit­i­cal par­ties - APC and PDP - with scant at­ten­tion to the other 24 par­ties. Pre­pon­der­ant at­ten­tion of 92 per cent fo­cused on the All Pro­gres­sive Congress (APC) and Peo­ple Demo­cratic Party, with the seven oth­ers at­tract­ing a pal­try eight per cent.

In her re­view of the as­sess­ment, Dean, Fac­ulty of So­cial Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe Univer­sity, Awka, Prof. Chinyere Okunna, said the me­dia is the oxy­gen of so­ci­ety and as such jour­nal­ists need to be abreast with trends. She, how­ever, sug­gested that The­sun, which has a strong pres­ence in the Eastern re­gion of the coun­try, should have been part of the as­sess­ment. Par­tic­i­pants lamented poor at­ten­tion given to youths who con­sti­tute about 60 per cent of Nige­ria’s pop­u­la­tion. The re­port stated that lit­tle ef­fort was made to cre­ate syn­ergy be­tween the elec­toral process and the fate of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties (PWD): “Crit­i­cal is­sues af­fect­ing PWD such as low per­cent­age of PWD in the hi­er­ar­chy of po­lit­i­cal con­tes­tants and the lack of pro­grammes and poli­cies of po­lit­i­cal par­ties were not main­streamed. Pre­mi­um­times and The­ca­ble ig­nored PWD whilst Trust barely gave it three per cent men­tion,” says the re­port.

Edi­tor-in-chief of Pre­mi­um­times, Dapo Olorun­y­omi, ad­vised that such huge as­sess­ment projects ought to in­volve ev­ery me­dia house and that the fi­nal re­port must get to ev­ery news­room. On his part, Press sec­re­tary to INEC Chair­man, Ro­timi Oyekanmi, said spe­cial­iza­tion was an­other chal­lenge, as jour­nal­ists were not al­lowed to master their crafts on a beat be­fore they are moved to an­other, adding, “Sub-edi­tors should be part of this meet­ing as well.”

The peer re­view group ad­vo­cated en­gage­ment of the me­dia, elec­toral agency, civil so­ci­ety, and the gov­ern­ment: “The me­dia as in­ter­preters of re­al­ity need to carry out the ex­er­cise with­out blink­ers, but with a vi­sion 2020 to en­sure that the req­ui­site train­ing, sup­port, and re­sources are put in place for free and re­spon­si­ble jour­nal­ism to thrive,” as stated in the re­port.

Ear­lier, the Di­rec­tor of IPC, Mr. Lanre Aro­gun­dade, em­pha­sised the need for me­dia to doc­u­ment elec­toral cam­paign prom­ises so as to hold politi­cians ac­count­able. With Nige­ria be­ing a mem­ber of United Na­tions, the re­port ad­vised that no jour­nal­ist should cover the elec­toral process with­out a clear un­der­stand­ing of the im­port of the eight de­vel­op­ment goals of the UN and the con­tent of Part 2 of the Nige­rian Con­sti­tu­tion of fun­da­men­tal ob­jec­tives and di­rec­tive prin­ci­ples of state pol­icy.

The group ar­gued that since con­flict sen­si­tiv­ity en­joins jour­nal­ists to move from con­flict high­light­ing to set­ting broad agenda for peace build­ing and con­flict res­o­lu­tion, the me­dia must de­vi­ate from just nar­rat­ing claims and coun­ter­claims with­out mak­ing ef­forts to in­ter­ro­gate them and of­fer in­formed per­spec­tives.

“Con­flict sen­si­tiv­ity de­mands that re­porters avoid stereo­typ­ing, pro­fil­ing and pri­mor­dial clichés that may hurt the sen­si­bil­i­ties of the elec­torate, con­scious that ap­pear­ance is hardly ever re­al­ity.

“Truth should not be de­ter­mined by hi­er­ar­chy of po­lit­i­cal or so­cial sta­tus but through me­dia ver­i­fi­ca­tion. State­ments made by top po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are of­ten splashed as if such state­ments are au­to­matic truths,” the re­port stated.

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