The United States Embassy in Nigeria and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) have advised the media to be factual and accurate in reporting the electoral process. Declaring its commitment to supporting Nigerians in ensuring that the 2019 elections is transparent, credible and peaceful, the US Embassy stated that a credible media is necessary to
The United States Embassy in Nigeria and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) have advised the media to be factual and accurate in reporting the electoral process. Declaring its commitment to supporting Nigerians in ensuring that the 2019 elections is transparent, credible and peaceful, the US Embassy stated that a credible media is necessary to drive the process.
“When people don’t have the facts, they make them up and that creates unstable environments, rife with rumours, gossips and lies”, says US Consul General F. John Bray. Reinforcing this, the Guild wants the media to observe “the highest professional and ethical standards in total compliance with the Code of Ethics of the Journalism profession”.
Speaking at the 2018 World Press Freedom Day, organized by the Public Affairs Section of the United States Consulate General in Lagos, Bray also disclosed that the US Consulate Public Affairs team in Lagos led by Darcy Zotter is putting together an election reporting training for 100 political reporters and editors as part of its support to strengthening the media.
Continuing, Bray contends that “The people of Nigeria rely on your unbiased and accurate coverage of the campaign season and the elections. That is why your role is so important. As the 2019 elections draw near, the US Mission supports your efforts to provide objective and balanced reporting to the Nigerian people”.
On the training for 100 political reporters and editors, he reveals that the training will be held in four cities across southern Nigeria, and will be co-facilitated by the Voice of America’s Director of International Media Training and a renowned Nigerian Journalism professor.
He also added that the US has worked with Nigeria to strengthen democratic institutions for decades and will continue to do so. “Some of you may know that the US Government, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has assisted Nigeria with strengthening the elections process since 1999”.
“Working with Nigerian and international partners, the US Mission in Nigeria has also engaged diplomatically and publicly to prevent violence and increase accountability, contributing significantly to the goal of free, fair, credible, and peaceful elections in Nigeria”, says Bray.
In his presentation, former Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu while speaking on the topic: “Media and Transparency in Nigeria’s 2019 Election” posits that despite Nigeria’s reputation for a vibrant and diverse range of media platforms and a raucous citizen sector, the country still have a long way to go. This according to him, poses a serious challenge to mechanisms of democratic governance in Nigeria, especially to the electoral process and its administration.
Offering suggestions on how the media can improve the process for the 2019 elections, Odinkalu proffered that the media could consider the pooling of resources in a Media Fusion Centre, which will be accessible to all media outlets. Emphasising that Nigeria’s media needs to update its capabilities in data journalism, Odinkalu argues that “training and skills upgrading would be needed to achieve this and this can be done by forging partnerships with peers outside the country with the help of international partners”.
According to him, consideration may also be given to agreeing with INEC, protocols on both proactive disclosure and access to collation, two aspects of transparency and election administration that have always been problematic in Nigeria.
Also in its statement marking the World Press Freedom Day, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) congratulated all journalists around the world especially those in Nigeria and indeed, Africa, on their resolve to “weather the storm to remain afloat, in spite of harsh economic conditions and environment”.
“It is instructive to note that the World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. The objective was to raise awareness on the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the Right to Freedom of Expression, enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since the Declaration of Windhoek, the anniversary is celebrated annually worldwide as World Press Freedom Day on May 3”, says the statement signed by its President, Mrs Funke Egbemode and General Secretary, Ms Victoria Ibanga.
The NGE says “This year’s event calls for sober reflection as it also affords us the opportunity to assess the state of press freedom, state of the media in our country and empathise and pay tribute to our colleagues who have lost their lives in the course of performing their Constitutional responsibility, as well as those in different prisons all over the world”.
Flowing from the theme of this year’s celebration, “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice”, the statements says “we join all well-meaning organisations such as the United Nations (UN) to call on the government to create an enabling legal environment for press freedom and give special attention to the role of an independent Judiciary in ensuring legal guarantees for press freedom and the prosecution of crimes against journalists”, pointing out that “It is also important to mention that impunity and all forms of oppressions and molestation must stop. More importantly, governments must begin to treat the Media as an ally in development and nation building”.
As a matter of fact, the NGE says “the history of Nigeria cannot be written without a mention of the role the Media played in the struggle for independence, enthronement of democracy and promotion and propagation of social justice and human rights. Having acquitted itself thus, its operators and indeed, journalists, do not deserve to be treated with anything less than respect and decorum in the course of performing their constitutional responsibility”.
While calling on governments and the political class to recognise the role of the Media in sustainable development, especially during the forthcoming elections, it says “as a watchdog fostering transparency, accountability and the rule of law, we reiterate the fact that it is the responsibilities of governments and relevant institutions to protect journalists from physical harm and intimidation”.
“Regrettably and in all fairness, all is not well with the Media industry in Nigeria. The cost of production materials is having a devastating effect on daily operations and the survival of the Media in general. This development, no doubt, has affected payment of monthly emoluments of media workers, thus creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and in effect, reducing the general morale of journalists in the country”.
The Guild is particularly miffed by the fact that “While the media industry has supported all other sectors of the economy, it is left to bear the brunt of everything that has gone wrong with the economy”. “We are losing revenue and forced to reduce manpower. It is important to call the attention of all on a day like this that a nation whose economy does not and cannot support the economy of its Media industry cannot thumb its chest that its press is free. A broke Media industry has no press freedom and is, therefore, far from being free, for as long as the economic shackles are firmly in place”, it stated.
“On our part as members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, we must collectively play our role in the interest of the generality of Nigerians whose trust we hold by maintaining and observing the highest professional and ethical standards in total compliance with the Code of Ethics of the Journalism profession. We must not allow agents of retrogression to use our platforms to preach hate and extremism under the guise of free speech”.
Calling on the government and security agencies to reopen and urgently resolve all pending cases of attacks and killings of Journalists and Media workers in the country and bring perpetrators to book, to serve as deterrent to others, the NGE says “While we condole with the families of our colleagues who paid the supreme price in the course of serving humanity, we celebrate all our colleagues who have continually defied the odds to shine the light into the darkest places, hold government accountable to the people and tell compelling stories about our communities and nation”