Worried by the upbraid on media coverage during the last general elections, a panel of media experts are undertaking a review of the ‘Code of Election Coverage’ ahead of the 2019 general elections. Generally in agreement that there were glaring shortcomings in the media coverage of the 2015 general elections, the panel, however, rejected any
Worried by the upbraid on media coverage during the last general elections, a panel of media experts are undertaking a review of the ‘Code of Election Coverage’ ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Generally in agreement that there were glaring shortcomings in the media coverage of the 2015 general elections, the panel, however, rejected any form of government-induced regulation of the media industry.
The experts who gathered in Lagos for two days, are to review ‘The 2015 Code of Election Coverage’, launched four months to the 2015 election, with the endorsement by seven media industry stakeholders, namely, Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), Radio, Television Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU). National association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the International Press Centre (IPC).
Mr John Momoh, chief executive officer, Channels Television in his keynote address titled “The Imperative of Special Media Code of Ethics for Election Coverage”, argued that the media’s capacity to be the society’s watchdog would be enhanced by its adherence to the Code of Election Coverage. noting that a forthright media is essential to the sustainability of a democratic society. “It is important that journalists are not harassed, intimidated or sacked in the performance of their jobs”.
Mr. Momoh who is also the Chairman, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) was represented by Mrs Adeola Olumeyan.
On his part, the President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr Waheed Odusile said that the union would set up a monitoring team on adherence to the Cole of Election Coverage, and argued in favour of a law that would regulate entry into journalism practice. “We need to say those who are not qualified should not be allowed to operate. The editors and media owners need to be reined in to ensure that they do not employ the wrong people”, he said.
Expressing his preference for self-regulation, the Publisher of Premium Times, Mr Dapo Olorunyomi implored the different segments of the media industry to work in concert to ensure that they sanitize and accord respectability to media practice.
Recalling the media’s seeming abysmal failure in the coverage of the 2015 election which was largely characterised by hate speech and inability to give voice to vulnerable groups like women and people living with disability, Olorunyomi who spoke on “Code of Conduct in Elections – A Global Overview of Issues and Challenges” urged the media to always “pursue the cause of truth’’.
Mr. Olorunyomi posited that “the essence of journalism is the pursuit of truth, once that is abridged the media will be shirking in discharging its role. It is the only profession where people are paid to tell the truth”, he said.
He argued against the position of some scholars, who called on government to wield the big stick, to mitigate what they perceived as the abysmal failure of the media not only to live up to its responsibility of presenting the electorate with informed choices but also its descent into the gutters during the 2015 election, the Premium Times publisher said the media needed to guard its loins to avert such external regulation which would not be in its interest.
‘’But you can appreciate their level of frustration which is informed by the belief that our practice is defined by disdain for ethical norms”, he said, contending that “the essence of section 22 of the constitution, which accords the media the responsibility to hold government accountable is that all the claims we make must be truthful. Its work must be defined by truth and accuracy. We must also fact check what we put out in the public space. Truth is therefore the foundation of our practice and cannot be mortgaged unless if we want the media to buckle under”.
The survivability of the media, Olorunyomi noted would be based on our ability to “acquire the skills and knowledge to stop the fakery presented as news” adding that “The capability of the newsrooms to do effective verification and fact checking” must be the watchword.
While ruling out external enforcement to make the media adhere to ethical standards, he advocated for a body of peers that would ensure that any reckless antics is checked stressing that “I’m for internal regulation. I do not think any external regulation will be healthy for the media”.
“It’s however important that we put our house in order if we do not want government to do it for us. We must ensure that the code of election coverage is popularised amongst journalists. We must find a way of turning it into some form of catechism in the newsroom. You can’t be a political reporter without knowing the media code of election coverage”, he said.
Corroborating this view, Mr Edetaen Ojo, executive director, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) who spoke on “The 2015 Code – Issues for Consideration for Review and Update”, called for the review of the laws setting up public broadcast media like NTA, Radio Nigeria, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Voice of Nigeria (VON) and their regulatory arm, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in order to free them from direct control of the Minister of Information and empower them to genuinely reflect varying views in their reports. He argued that the laws setting up their counterparts in the states which are equally tied to the apron strings of the Commissioner for Information should also be reviewed.
This he said would bring it to the practice in Ghana where the editors of the publicly owned Daily Graphic or the Ghana Broadcasting Service are not appointed by government but by an independent Media Commission which does not report to the Minister of Information.
“It is important that the public media which have wide coverage are managed in a way that guarantees their independence. There’s a need to transform publicly owned media to public entities with independent boards that are free from the direct control of either the President or the Governors”, Ojo said.
Canvassing for a separate code for media owners to check their antics and make them subscribe to ethical practice, he said “We need to rescue the profession from quacks and who think that they have no business paying salaries to their staff”.
Also warding off any outside intervention to regulate the media practice, Mr. Ojo who was of the opinion that “there’s a thin line between freedom of speech and hate speech”, posited that “We should not allow government to regulate the media. We should not encourage government to regulate our lives.
“I had cautioned that we needed to urgently sanitise the media if we do not want government to do it for us without contemplating that they could make hate speech punishable by death which is far on the extreme”.
Welcoming the participants, the Director, international Press Centre (IPC), Mr Lanre Arogundade said that the gathering “represents an important milestone in the quest to ensure credibility and integrity of the media in the coverage of elections; the underlying principle being that a credible media is in a stronger position to serve as catalysts of credible and acceptable elections”.
While expressing thanks to the European Union for the Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria (SDGN) project and the National Authorising Officer of the project – Ministry of Budget and National Planning, he disclosed that the component 4b that the IPC is implementing would span over a 52- month period.
He said the 2015 Code of Election Coverage which was launched four months to the 2015 election with the endorsement by seven stakeholders is expected to be endorsed by more organisations this year. It is expected to be launched in May this year.
Also present at the two-day stakeholders meeting were the representative of the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Dr Sanwo Faniran, Desk Officer with the dept of international cooperation at the Ministry of Budget and Planning , Mrs Aminat Mashood, Representative of the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, Election Expert, European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Dr Isiaka Yahaya, Executive Director, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), Kano, Malam Y.Z Ya’u, Chairman, NUJ, Lagos Council, Dr Qasim Akinreti, Provost, Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), Mr Gbemiga Ogunleye, Assistant Director Programmes, Radio Nigeria, Lagos Operations, Mrs Funke-Treasure Durodola, President Guild of Online Publishers of Nigeria (GOPON), Mr. Dotun Oladipo, and Dr Akin Akingbulu, the Executive Director, Institute of Media and Society (IMS), amongs others.
Photos: To access or view an array of pictures from the event, click the link below as appropriate.
Day 1 pictures: http://bit.ly/2Ig3j1A
Day 2 pictures: http://bit.ly/2oTCbxd