2019 Elections: The Guardian Leads in Gender-Sensitive Reporting

2019 Elections: The Guardian Leads in Gender-Sensitive Reporting

By Raji Rasaq New findings have revealed that The Guardian Newspaper, was ahead of other newspapers during the 2019 general election, having published the highest number of reports on women. According to a new report from an on-going media survey being conducted by the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos, 174 reports were published on women

By Raji Rasaq

New findings have revealed that The Guardian Newspaper, was ahead of other newspapers during the 2019 general election, having published the highest number of reports on women. According to a new report from an on-going media survey being conducted by the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos, 174 reports were published on women issues, out of which The Guardian published the highest of 30 reports, representing 17.24%.

The current findings were based on media reports on issues around women participation in the political and electoral process monitored and analysed between the periods representing the pre-election period (September-December, 2018), and during the election, (that is, between January-March, 2019).

The IPC is undertaking a media survey in twelve national newspapers. The newspapers are The Punch, The Guardian, Daily Sun, Vanguard, ThisDay, Nigerian Tribune, The Nation, Leadership, Daily Trust, Blue Print (online version), The Cable (published online only) and the Premium Times (published online only).

The survey tracks the trends in the reportage of the 2019 electoral process under component 4b of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) Project.

Findings on Gender Reporting

Between September 2018 and March 2019, a total of 33,889 relevant reports were monitored in all the newspapers under review. Of these, 174 reports were published on women issues, out of which The Guardian published the highest of 30 reports, representing 17.24%.

Following very closely was Vanguard with 23 reports (13.2%), Leadership and The Punch published 19 reports each (11%); Daily Trust, 16 reports (9.2%); ThisDay, 15 reports (8.6%); Daily Sun, 13 (7.4%); The Nation and Blueprint each published 10 reports, (5.75%); Nigerian Tribune, 9 reports (5.17%); Premium Times, 6 reports (3.43%); The Cable, 4 reports (2.3%).

Key Issues Reported in the Media

Most of the media reports on women issues within the period centered on Limited Access, Women as sources, Key Voices in VoxPops among others.

On the issues of access, findings show that media under review beamed their searchlight on how high cost of nomination and expression of interest forms for party primaries was inhibiting political access to women contesting.

One of these was published in BluePrint, in an editorial of September 7, 2018, titled: High cost of party nomination forms, the paper urged that

“We, therefore, urge the APC and PDP to review drastically the cost of their nomination forms downward”.

Also, an editorial position in Daily Sun (September 12, 2018) spoke to this in a report captioned, “High Cost of Nomination Forms. The report says “It abridges access to participation in the democratic process and disenfranchises millions of Nigerians”.

In Leadership, a report titled: 2019 General Elections: Group Expresses Discontent over High Cost of Nomination Forms by Different Political Parties.

Key Women’s Voices Missing in Vox Pops

However, in many instances, men’s voices were heard more than women even in reports that dwelled exclusively on female candidates. One of these was observed in Daily Trust, (October 19th 2018, Pg. 13), titled: “31 women vie for 468 National Assembly seats under APC, PDP”. Here, the only voices heard were those of men; no woman spoke.

In a Vox Populi published in Daily Sun (November 22nd, 2018) titled: Direct or indirect primaries, which is more democratic?, the newspaper quoted eight men from different walks of life, no woman was included.

Again, in another Vox Populi published by Vanguard, (February 20, 2019), titled: “ELECTIONS: Do you think postponement guarantee free, fair exercise,” there were five respondents. Of these, only one female respondent was featured.

By Exception

There are a few cases where women’s voices were heard. An instance was found in Leadership (September 12, 2018). The report was titled: 8 Women Jostle For Gombe Assembly Seats Under PDP.

The paper quoted a woman-party official as saying “… more women are needed to participate actively in politics and governance in Gombe State and Nigeria if they are to have fair representation.”

Gender-Sensitive Reporting

Gender sensitive reporting connotes the rights of all persons, irrespective of gender, in a contest, to be given fair and equitable access in the media space. However, as has been cited in various situations, media reportage is often skewed in favour of the male characters during elections, considering the patriarchal nature of the Nigerian society. As contained in a publication, Reporting Elections and Democratic Accountability: A Resource Manual (IPC, 2018), “Patriarchal system in the society is reinforced by the media in the representation, signification and reportage of female politicians. This bias reflects in the prominence given, space and time allotted to them before, during and after the elections”.

In view of this, the Resource Manual recommends that the gender-sensitive reporter should strive to:

  • Provide the platform or open forum for debate about women in politics to throw up pertinent questions and issues about the electoral process;
  • Increase the frequency and prominence given to gender issues in Nigerian politics;
  • Provide the space and time for female aspirants to talk about their aspirations;
  • Provide the space and time for female candidates to talk about their manifestoes or programmes;
  • Regularly reflect female voices – school girls, young girls, female professionals, workers, politicians, etc – in stories about politics and elections: their views matter as much as those of men;
  • Regularly obtain the views of gender experts especially in the civil sector to offer perspectives on political and electoral issues affecting women.

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