Coverage of 2015 Elections: Experts raise concern over hate speech but acknowledge robust coverage

Coverage of 2015 Elections: Experts raise concern over hate speech but acknowledge robust coverage

Though the 2015 general elections have come and gone, the review of the Nigerian media performance during the period is still continuing. One of such review took place in Lagos on Tuesday August 28 courtesy of the Nigerian Press Council and the Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) Project. The submissions made on the occasion suggested

Though the 2015 general elections have come and gone, the review of the Nigerian media performance during the period is still continuing. One of such review took place in Lagos on Tuesday August 28 courtesy of the Nigerian Press Council and the Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) Project.

The submissions made on the occasion suggested that the media did not perform well enough especially in the area of compliance with the ethics of journalism.

“During the electioneering campaign, it was observed that the media did not comply with the code of ethics in publishing and broadcasting advertorials while hate speech and inciting statements especially by the two major political parties – the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) were also used in the media”, Tom Adaba, Chairman/CEO, Trim Communication Nigeria and pioneer Director General, Nigeria Broadcasting Commission stated at the forum.

“Media is expected to be a unifying factor for different groups but unfortunately it is not so. One of the greatest values Nigeria is identified with is respect. The advertisement by both PDP and APC didn’t portray this. The office of the President must be respected and candidates vying for the position must be given due respect,” he added.

However, Executive Secretary, NPC, Mr. Nnamdi Njemanze said the media performed well in some areas, while criticism of media performance was mostly in the area of political communication and advertisements.

“If you look at the spectrum, there are areas like voter education, motivation of populace to take part in electoral process which the media performed well. However, there are areas Nigerians criticized the media particularly political communication and adverts which many felt incited general public into hatred. Media is also accused of sensational headlines”, he explained.

“Now that the elections have come and gone, media is expected to play the role of peace building to heal the cleavages that have been raised from the intense campaigns”, he stated further.

Delivering his paper entitled: “Assessment of Media Performance in the Coverage of 2015 General Elections within the Context of the Code of Ethics and Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage,” Director, International Press Centre (IPC), Lanre Arogundade, said media erred in the area of compliance with the ethics and Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage.

He declared that reports of monitored 23 national and regional newspapers, four online news portal and three social media carried out by NPC and IPC revealed that media did not give equal access to political parties while women, youth and people living with disability were under represented in the media. He also noted that hate speech and inciting statements contained in media reports.

He however stated that media performed well in the coverage of the electoral body, Independent Nigeria Electoral Commission (INEC) and the provision of early warning signals.

“It is difficult to give an overall or all encompassing assessment of media performance in the last election bearing in mind that the media landscape is very wide not only with the conventional media but also with online and social media”, Mr. Arogundade however noted.

His words: “There are about 100 newspapers, magazines, 250 television stations, and enormous resources will be needed to cover media. There was no monitoring of the broadcast media which IPC/NPC had for newspapers. There are clear violations of the ethics by government and politicians and thirteen incidences of attacks on journalists were recorded during the elections. Eight were perpetrated by police and soldiers, six by political party hoodlums. Media therefore needs conducive environment to operate.”

“The survey from January to March 2015 revealed that PDP and APC have media access than other political parties. Male politicians are used as sources more than the female politicians, youths and persons living with disability are rarely mentioned. Reports on hate speech and incitement are displayed and the trend continues in February. There are offensive languages in adverts in January and so many of them are directed at Jonathan and Buhari”, Arogundade declared.

“Media did well in the coverage of INEC especially in the crisis and complaints of Permanent Voter Card collection, media tried to hold INEC responsible. It also did a lot in early warning signals”, he added.

He however said there were significant areas of non-compliance with the code while there are few areas of compliance. “There are major challenges of implementation and enforcement of the code. In drawing conclusions, the point must be stressed that the code is relatively new, ratified in December 2014 and only 25,000 copies were produced. Looking at the media landscape, the produced copies are not enough and can’t go round”.

He noted that observations showed that the media carried biased adverts especially against the presidential candidates of PDP and APC.

“Media organizations must realize that no matter the circumstances, professionalism pays. Those who ignore it will smile to the bank but possibly come out crying with libel suits against them”, he stated.

The Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State chapter, Deji Elumoye, however said that the union made efforts to halt the hate adverts. According to him: “Owners of business did not subject adverts to necessary checks. Some staffs were not aware of the adverts but also watched it at home. I knew what we did at state and national levels as NUJ”. He also agreed that the candidates were not given equal access in the media especially those that did not belong to the ruling parties.

To Adaba, the media should strive to be professional, and subject media practice to existing codes, no matter the circumstances. “If we refuse to comply, we will continue to be unprofessional but if we do, we will be better off for it”, he stated.

At the end of the programme, a communiqué was issued that identified areas of strengths and weaknesses of the media reporting of the elections. The communiqué called on relevant stakeholders and bodies like NPC, NUJ, APCON, NGE, NPAN, RATTAWU, NBC etc to have a major stakeholders’ conference to look at measures of enhancing media professional performance during elections. The communiqué also agreed that a larger forum should be convened to look at the pit falls and gaps in enforcing media ethics.

The communiqué proposed that future political debates for candidates should be organized by the NUJ.

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