Final report on media coverage of 2015 elections: A monitoring scorecard of print and online media

Final report on media coverage of 2015 elections: A monitoring scorecard of print and online media

>ABOUT THE MEDIA MONITORING REPORT.>   The media monitoring activity was conducted for twelve national newspapers, ten regional and Abuja based newspapers, four online news media and three social media platforms over a six-month period from November 2014 through to April 2015.   The twelve (12) national newspapers were Daily Sun, The Nation, National Mirror,

>ABOUT THE MEDIA MONITORING REPORT.>

 

The media monitoring activity was conducted for twelve national newspapers, ten regional and Abuja based newspapers, four online news media and three social media platforms over a six-month period from November 2014 through to April 2015.

 

The twelve (12) national newspapers were Daily Sun, The Nation, National Mirror, Vanguard, The Punch, ThisDay, Daily Independent, The Guardian, Nigerian Tribune, Daily Champion, Leadership and Daily Trust.

 

The ten (10) regional newspapers were Nigerian Chronicle, Daily Star, Nigerian Observer, Nigerian Pilot, Abuja Inquirer, Peoples’ Daily, Blueprint, The Gleaner, Desert Herald, and Fresh Facts.

 

The four (4) online news media were The Tide, The Cable, Sahara Reporters and Premium Times while the three (3) social media platforms were those of Enough-is-Enough Nigeria, Reclaim Naija and INEC.

 

As a final report, what this publication therefore presents are the details of context, the methodology, the outcomes and the findings of the monitoring exercise.

In doing this, the report is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter is the executive summary, the second is the introduction/ background, which provides the context of the monitoring and the aims and objectives and the third details the approaches and methodologies of the monitoring. The fourth focuses on the overall performance scorecard during the six-month period while the fifth and sixth respectively provide the monthly findings on trends of reporting by the national and regional newspapers and the trends on the online media and social media platforms. The seventh chapter contains the conclusions and recommendations.

 

The general findings       

The summary of the general findings are that:

  • The monitored media outlets accorded varying degree of priority to public interest issues in the 2015 elections; while there was high interest in conflict related issues, the development content of the election reports were quite low;
  • The monitored media outlets exhibited different levels of professionalism in the reporting of political parties and candidate but media access was generally in favour of the biggest two political parties while the other political parties were often overlooked;
  • The monitored media outlets made noticeable efforts to comply with the legislative and the institutional frameworks on the media coverage of elections, but there were significant areas of non-compliance.

 

Specific findings

The specific findings showed that:

 

Mention of political parties

Though 26 political parties were listed on the website of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the mention of political parties in the monitored reports was highly skewed in favour of only two parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). For the six months covered by this report, political parties were used as sources 8,318 times out of a total of 42,595 sources. The APC had the highest mention with 3,911 or (47.01%) closely followed by PDP with 3,716 or (44.67%). All other 24 political parties shared the remaining (8.4%) of mention with a significant number without mention at all.

 

 

Women, under-represented groups and other sources

A total of 16,046 male and female voices were used as sources. Male voices dominated with 15,296 (95.32%) and female voices at a dismal 750 (4.68%). Consistent with other findings, the female voices have again been muffled in the political discourse leading to and transcending the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. This becomes even more unjustifiable when it is recalled that there was a female presidential candidate, female governorship candidate and female candidates for the national and state houses of assembly seats.

 

However, the news media cannot be entirely blamed for placing emphasis on the male gender. More men are in politics and they have the financial wherewithal to prosecute media campaigns which reporters latch on to get stories. It is also a known fact that the few women in politics are not financially strong enough to withstand the rigours of political campaigns. They are only known and not heard. The media however deals with those who are ready to talk.

 

A number of other sources were used by the media to shape the discourse of the 2015 election. There were 18,330 of such sources made up of the media (5,871), ordinary citizens (3,864), civil society (2,687), experts (2,515) the electoral management body (2,932), youths (409) and People living with disabilities (PLWD).(44).

 

Conflict-sensitivity

The concern about conflict-sensitivity includes whether media reports give enough alert about possible outbreak of violence (Early Warning Signals) and whether or not sensational headlines that could inflame passion or instigate people into violence are used.

 

  • The monitored media outlets gave adequate attention to early warning signals of conflicts as their election reports contained substantial alerts on possible outbreak of violence;
  • The monitored media outlets occasionally made use of sensational headlines some of which had strong potential to inflame passion or instigate the people into violent acts.

 

Early warning signals

For the six months under review, 498 reports were published in the national newspapers which warned about impending dangers and issues that could likely result in violence. In the dailies, the highest report was recorded in the month of February 2015 with 129 reports.

 

 

The regional papers also reported 127 cases of possible outbreak of violence. These reports were direct consequence of apprehension that seemed to have engulfed the entire country.

 

Headline sensationalism

The monitoring exercise recorded only 28 headlines that could be termed sensational. This gives the impression that the media were largely mindful of the need not to further escalate tension and that perhaps the admonitions at trainings, workshops and similar interventions were beginning to be heeded.

 

 

Language use        

A total of 117 sensational headlines, incitement and hate speeches as well as stereotypes were recorded in the six- month period with an average of about 20 per month across the 12 selected national print media.

  • Most of the words or expressions that constituted hatred or incitement were used in political advertorials by some of the monitored media outlets.

 

 

Issues:

  • Campaigns, political conflicts and electoral conflicts were the electoral issues mostly reported. The issue of voters’ education was fairly reported while the issues of women, youths and persons living with disability were poorly reported;

 

Election Management Body

  • The trend of reporting showed that complaints and demands were the most commonly reported issues about the electoral management body;
  • The monitored media outlets also significantly reported the reactions or responses of the election management body – INEC – to the various complaints and demands; commendations were only fairly reported.            

 

 

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

 

Conclusions

Subsequent to the media monitoring activity, the observation of the trends and an understudy of the outcomes, NPC and IPC came to the following conclusions.

 

  1. Equitable coverage of political parties

The coverage and reportage of the parties which participated in the elections were not as equitable as it should be.  It was observed that despite the fact that up to twenty-six (26) political parties had candidates that contested the Presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and States Assembly elections; the two biggest political parties, the APC and PDP dominated media reporting during the period under review with over 80% reportage above the other parties combined.

 

  • Coverage on the basis of gender

Female politicians especially candidates received less attention compared to their male counterparts who were the ones mostly used as sources. This did not show enough gender-supportive reporting of the elections as over 90% of political sources across the monitored media were males.

While it was apparent that media report was skewed in favour of male politicians who were more prominent in the contest for elective post at the federal level, the coverage of female politicians was lower ahead the state level elections where there were more female candidates.

 

  • Youths & People Living with Disabilities

The monitored media did not do enough to incorporate the issues of under-represented groups in election reports, despite the fact that youths constitute about 70% of the population, while PLWDs number up to 22 million.

 

  1. Early Warning Signals

The media monitored showed commendable concern for the conduct of peaceful polls by giving adequate attention to early warning signals on possible outbreak of violence especially on conflict issues and in conflict-prone areas. The newspapers in particular deserve commendation for publishing many stories that serve as early warning signals of conflict.

 

  1. Inciting Statements/Sensational Headlines

Some of the monitored newspapers were caught in the web of political cross fire between rival candidates who issued statements to disparage opponents. Although sensational headlines recorded were not many, the few that were used ought to have been avoided because of their potential to cause disaffection, inflame passion and possibly cause disaffection.

However, the regional newspapers and online media platforms demonstrated a good sense of conflict sensitivity by avoiding inciting reports.

 

  1. Language & Hate Speech

The newspapers fell to the trap of promoting hate speech by reporting  quotes and statements from interviews, press statements and sometimes from alleged ‘online sources’ credited to aides and associate of politicians who had issues to score with political opponents. This was also promoted in certain advertorials in the monitored newspapers.

 

It is particularly instructive to note that the regional newspapers did not use any sensational headline, hate speech or incitements when compared with the national ones. The monitored online media and social media were also conflict-sensitive.

 

  • Stereotypes

Some of the national newspapers were found to have promoted reports and interviews with stereotypical statements and quotes about certain individuals. Although these statements were direct quotes from political actors, the newspapers in their reportage should have been more conflict sensitive and avoid projecting such statements.

 

  • Issues

The media is commended for its robust engagement of the electoral process by the quantum of news items, photos, opinions and features published on the election process, especially as they concerned campaigns and electoral conflicts.  It was observed that some media organizations had dedicated pages and generally gave robust coverage of the electoral process.

 

The social media platforms monitored also devoted more time and effort towards voter education going by the number of tweets on voter education generated.

 

  1. INEC

The monitored newspapers performed well in the reportage of INEC as they tried to hold the organization accountable by publishing many reports relating to citizens’ demands and complaints on issues of the electoral process.

The national, regional and online media demonstrated commendable sensitivity to the public interest by giving prominence to the complaints and demand of the citizen and groups as directed at INEC. The dominant issues during the period were the right of all citizens to vote, the distribution of the PVCs, and the shifting of the elections, etc. At the same time, the newspapers exercised required oversight on the Electoral Management Bodies by highlighting its responses to the complaints and demands while they also showed fairness to the body by not ignoring the few commendations it received.

 

Generally, the monitored media deserve commendation for engaging and tasking INEC on the need to ensure that the elections were conducted credibly. At the core of reporting were the issues of PVCs, TVCs and card readers.

 

  1. Genre

News was the preferred genre of reporting of the relevant reports. This showed commendable attempt to being information to the doorstep of voters.

 

Recommendations

This report recommends that:

  • The media should in future elections guarantee fair access and equitable coverage for all registered political parties especially in order to enable the electorate to make informed choices at the polls. The reporting should not continue to be focussed exclusively on the so-called frontline or prominent political parties;

 

  • The media should continue to base its agenda for the reporting of elections and democratic governance issues on the public interest for credible process, development and democratic accountability;

 

  • Media owners, editors and reporters who cover elections should develop deliberate strategies to ensure that women politicians are properly projected;

 

  • Regulatory agencies such as the Nigerian Press Council, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) etc and media professional associations/bodies like the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Nigeria Guild of Editors, RATTAWU etc should strengthen and enforce their industry regulatory instruments, including election guidelines and professional conduct to ensure that media organizations deliver on equitable coverage of all political parties and women candidates.

 

  • The media should embrace the philosophy of gender responsive reporting by giving greater projection to female politicians and women issues generally while also seeking commitment from women politicians and women led organizations as sources for stories affecting the female gender and democratic governance.

 

  • Journalists should ensure that their reports on the electoral processes in general and democratic governance issues in particular are more inclusive by improving on the use of experts, women, youths, ordinary citizens, the civil society, etc, as sources.

 

  • Online media platforms operated by media practitioners should continue to uphold media ethics in their reportage of electoral and democratic governance issues in order to enhance their rating as dependable sources for engagement in subsequent elections and especially to draw a distinction between online media and other online activities by individuals who are not journalists.

 

 

  • The use of social media has some cross cutting advantages, as such, the civil society should plan to use and equally encourage other election stakeholders to use social media in subsequent elections in Nigeria and in engagements that deepen Nigeria’s Democratic governance.

 

  • INEC should sustain and improve on its engagement and use of the social media as a political communication and voter education tool in Nigeria.

 

  • Development partners should continue to support and fund local NGOs and media support groups on capacity building and knowledge sharing initiatives that contribute to deepening the democratic process in Nigeria.

 

 

Download full report at

http://bit.ly/1BM2GSH

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