‘How media can drive violence-free election’

Participant-kkTHE President of Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr. Femi Adesina, has said that if the 2015 general elections would go well, without negative incidents, a lot will depend on how the media do their work.

   Speaking in Lagos last week at the Media Tweet-a-thon organized by the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos, Adesina identified several factors that could instigate electoral violence, while emphasizing that the key one is the perceived sense of injustice, through electoral manipulation.  

    With Making use of Media Code of Election Coverage for Credible Reporting as the theme, the event was essentially designed to enhance the use of the new code by journalists. As the lead speaker, the NGE head however observed that if the media could discharge its duty as concerns election coverage professionally and dispassionately while the electoral umpire also does its work with absolute neutrality and efficiently, then the possibilities of violence flaring are greatly reduced.   

    “Credible reporting promotes the transparency and impartiality that goes into an election that has been properly conducted. Bearing that in mind, stakeholders in the media had worked hard over the past many months to articulate what is now called The Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage, which has now been formally presented to the public,” he said.  

     The Managing Director of Sun Newspaper listed the groups that produced the code to include the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN); Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ); Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE); Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON);  Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU); Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Media Rights Agenda (MRA); and International Press Centre (IPC).

     Having scaled the hurdles of articulating, codifying and presenting the code of election coverage, for him, the next challenge now is making use of the document, and the principles embedded in it.  He said that it is of utmost importance that The Nigerian Media Code of Election coverage, be in the hands of every practicing journalist.  

    “And they not only need to have it, but also read and internalise it.  How do we achieve this all-important mission? One of the ways is through an event like this, being hosted by the IPC,” Adesina noted.  

   He maintained that the Tweet-a-Thon is a veritable way of spreading the gospel of the code of election coverage “not only to Judea, but also to Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.  

   “Go tell it on the mountain, over the seas and everywhere, that the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage is available, and waiting to be used. Again, we need the buy-in of every chapel, and council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ),” he added.  

   He enjoined journalists to not only have copies of the code, but the NUJ should hold special sessions on it during their meetings and congresses as the document contains provisions that will enhance the practice of every journalist that studies it.      “It should also be widely used in the training of journalists, especially political reporters and heads of political desks in media organisations. This code is a veritable guide to election reporting, which should be adopted and strictly implemented in all print and broadcast organisations in the country.” 

    Also speaking at the event, Assistant Editor, Vanguard Newspapers, Mrs. Funmi Komolafe, said that though it is commendable that stakeholders and media non-governmental organisations came up with a Code of Election Coverage, there are issues that may be obstacles to the realisation of the objectives for which the code was drafted.

     She listed the likely obstacles to include protection of journalists, ownership, limited human resources and agenda setting role of the media.

   Commenting on protection of journalists, Komolafe observed that how well informed are representatives of the police, the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Civil Defence Corps and the Department of State Security (DSS) about the role of the media in the coverage of election.

    “How do we ensure that they do not see journalists as intruders into the process?

Should there be incidence of battery and assault, how does the journalist seek redress?”

   She also observed that though the professional journalist is properly guided by the provisions of the Code of Election Coverage, it is a fact that all media owners have interests which may be in favour of a particular party.  

   “Such interests usually conflict with the journalist professional ethics. Recently, a media organisation forced an editor to resign for “using, allegedly, the medium to promote an opposing party.”   

   On human resource limitation, she said that as a result of inadequate manpower, the media tend to focus on local government areas and state capitals without adequate coverage of the rural dwellers.

    Komolafe noted that covering election for the Nigerian journalist is not just loaded with challenges such as lack of trust from the politician, in some instances, even the voter does not have confidence in the journalist who is usually accused for working for some interests.

   The Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade in his opening remarks said that the theme of the conference ‘Making use of Media Code of Election Coverage for Credible Reporting’ was deliberately chosen to discuss how media practitioners can take advantage of the media code in advancing credible reporting of the forthcoming elections. 

   He added that the new media code which is an outcome of the collaborative effort of media professional bodies was launched on December 10, 2014 and the 30-page document was adopted by various stakeholders in the media industry. 

    Arogundade disclosed that the publication was facilitated by the Democratic Development Project (DGD) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).


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