2019: Me­dia on the spot­light for pro­fes­sion­al­ism, cred­i­ble polls

Sunday Trust - - MEDIA - From Rakiya A. Muham­mad, Sokoto

Me­dia stake­hold­ers dis­cussed eth­nics, ap­proach to elec­tion re­port­ing among oth­ers in Sokoto.

Be­fore now and even ahead the 2019 elec­tion, there has been em­pha­sis on strength­en­ing the me­dia to ef­fec­tively carry out its role in the pro­mo­tion and pro­tec­tion of demo­cratic val­ues in Nige­ria.

This is so against the back­drop of pre­vail­ing sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try char­ac­ter­ized by what a uni­ver­sity don Pro­fes­sor Umaru Pate de­scribed as tense mo­ments in Nige­ria, mul­ti­ple con­flicts, height­ened po­lit­i­cal horse­trad­ing, war against high level, wide­spread cor­rup­tion, de­bil­i­tat­ing poverty and weak in­sti­tu­tions among oth­ers.

At a work­shop or­gan­ised by the In­ter­na­tional Press Cen­tre (IPC) and Euro­pean Union (EU) for po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dents in North­West and North-Cen­tral Nige­ria, the in­ter­con­nec­tions be­tween the pub­lic, the me­dia and elec­tions were crit­i­cally ex­am­ined to­wards de­vel­op­ing an agenda that seeks to strengthen the role of the me­dia in fa­cil­i­tat­ing a cred­i­ble elec­toral process.

Pate, Dean of the Fac­ulty of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Bayero Uni­ver­sity, Kano, was ex­plicit on the pit­falls of the me­dia in the se­lec­tive pro­mo­tion of prej­u­di­cial stereo­types based on in­com­plete facts, mis­chief and ig­no­rance.

He pointed out that many have poor pic­tures of the com­plex­i­ties of com­po­si­tion, mat­ters are eth­ni­cised, re­gion­al­ized, re­li­gionised or politi­cized to the detri­ment of the col­lec­tive good.

He ob­served that weak re­search ca­pac­i­ties have man­i­fested deficits of knowl­edge, shal­low con­tent and episodic at­ti­tudes in re­port­ing not­ing fail­ure to tract man­i­festoes and state­ments.

Pate added: “Com­mon ten­dency of pack­ag­ing con­tent with­out re­gards to fun­da­men­tal so­ci­o­log­i­cal, eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and other con­texts. Pro­mo­tion of state­ments of politi­cians, eth­nic cham­pi­ons, re­li­gious zealots and other in­ter­ested par­ties with­out be­ing crit­i­cal or in­de­pen­dently in­quir­ing about spe­cific is­sues.”

The lec­turer also noted gen­er­al­ized state­ments not sup­ported by facts and fig­ures on very sen­si­tive na­tional is­sue and weak in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism ca­pac­ity and man­i­fes­ta­tion. He de­scribed the me­dia as an im­por­tant part­ner in the preser­va­tion of na­tional in­ter­est and se­cu­rity and demo­cratic sus­te­nance.

Ac­cord­ing to him, peo­ple de­pended largely on the me­dia to cre­ate images, form opin­ions and quite of­ten, get guid­ance on is­sues and hap­pen­ings in the na­tion and beyond and pro­vide early warn­ing signs for au­thor­i­ties to take proac­tive mea­sures.

Threats to na­tional in­ter­est, se­cu­rity and neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes in the wider so­ci­ety, he pointed out, af­fect the qual­ity and strength of the na­tion’s democ­racy and stressed the need for the me­dia to un­der­stand the threats and guard against them.

How­ever, among the rec­om­men­da­tions, he made are in­creased focus on ex­ist­ing mind­sets and pro­fes­sional en­gage­ment of the me­dia with politi­cians, civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­sti­tu­tions and agen­cies in­volved with elec­tions.

On the other hand, he said the me­dia should be more con­fi­dent in in­ves­ti­gat­ing the con­duct of politi­cians, ful­fill­ment of prom­ises by in­cum­bents, be­hav­iour of in­sti­tu­tions like the Po­lice, In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (INEC) and spe­cific al­le­ga­tions of malpractices and other such neg­a­tive acts.

It was in the same vein that the Di­rec­tor, In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of Me­dia, Moji Makan­juola, noted fac­tors to con­sider when iden­ti­fy­ing elec­tion points of con­flict and vi­o­lence to in­clude trig­gers, par­ties to the con­flict and vi­o­lence, in­ten­sity, mo­tives, en­abling con­di­tions and ef­fect.

She pointed out the need to en­sure the ef­fects of con­flict and vi­o­lence on elec­tions, democ­racy and peace, are cap­tured and fac­tu­ally re­ported so that they do not even­tu­ally cir­cum­vent the de­sired out­come of free and fair polls.

“The me­dia com­mu­nity owes the so­ci­ety in which ex­ists an obli­ga­tion to dis­pas­sion­ately dis­sect is­sues and bring to the fore the es­sen­tial while sift­ing the unim­por­tant and un­re­lated,” Makan­juola noted.

She ex­plained that ev­ery jour­nal­ist must rally round the truth and speak for it with one voice and ev­ery so­ci­ety de­serves the best it can get and that is what the jour­nal­ist would have mid­wifed if they do their job right.

For his part, a mem­ber, Editorial Board Guardian News­pa­per Martin Onoja, spelt out the le­gal and reg­u­la­tory frame­work for re­port­ing elec­tions, em­pha­sis­ing the need for jour­nal­ists to know the law guid­ing their work.

He also un­der­scored the im­por­tance of pro­fes­sional in­tegrity which he re­ferred to as the cor­ner­stone of a jour­nal­ist’s cred­i­bil­ity.

The Di­rec­tor, In­ter­na­tional Press Cen­tre Mr. Lanre Aro­gun­dade ex­pected that the me­dia dur­ing the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions, with the fa­cil­i­ta­tion of elec­tion stake­hold­ers in Nige­ria, will fol­low global trends in the use me­dia as a po­lit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool.

The meet­ing, he re­vealed, was to bring to the front burn­ers the pre­req­ui­site to hone the skills of jour­nal­ists by way of pro­fes­sional and eth­i­cal reportage of demo­cratic pro­cesses and elec­tions as well as com­mit to pro­fi­ciency, con­flict­sen­si­tive, cit­i­zen-fo­cused, gen­der­fo­cused and dig­i­tal re­port­ing of the 2019 elec­tions.

Aro­gun­dade added that the train­ing would help par­tic­i­pants to un­der­stand and im­bibe the prin­ci­ples of fair­ness, di­ver­sity and ob­jec­tiv­ity in re­port­ing the elec­toral process and the elec­tions.

The me­dia should cre­ate equal op­por­tu­ni­ties for Nige­rian politi­cians and po­lit­i­cal par­ties to tap into the op­por­tu­ni­ties of­fered by them to reach and en­gage their con­stituents and vot­ers, the IPC Di­rec­tor stressed.

He also called on jour­nal­ists to use me­dia tools to im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of elec­tion ob­ser­va­tion while also urg­ing them to pro­mote the in­clu­sive is­sues of women, youths and peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­ity.

“In ad­di­tion, the me­dia have a crit­i­cal agenda set­ting role to sup­port the in­tegrity and cred­i­bil­ity of elec­tions, “he said. “Not only must they take a lead role in en­sur­ing that cit­i­zens are ad­e­quately mo­bilised, but they should also en­sure that the en­tire process is open to pub­lic scru­tiny,” Aro­gun­dade con­cluded.

Some jour­nal­ists at the IPC work­shop

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