2019: Media on the spotlight for professionalism, credible polls
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