Recognising the importance of media and information during electioneering, especially as the off-cycle governorship election in Imo State approaches, the International Press Centre in collaboration and Center for Media and Society have organised a media roundtable and engagement for journalists to discuss the effective coverage of the November 11, governorship election in Imo state. The
Recognising the importance of media and information during electioneering, especially as the off-cycle governorship election in Imo State approaches, the International Press Centre in collaboration and Center for Media and Society have organised a media roundtable and engagement for journalists to discuss the effective coverage of the November 11, governorship election in Imo state.
The workshop, held under Component 4: Support to Media of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGNII) project, and focused on how the media can improve openness and transparency during the state governorship election.
The workshop which was attended by journalists from all the media types including print, electronic and online media gave capacity support to the journalists on how to carry out their duties in an an atmosphere that would ensure their safety. Different tips were offered to participants by the resource persons on how to avoid pitfalls in election coverage while upholding professionalism.
In her welcome address, Melody Akinjiyan, the programme officer of IPC, acknowledged the role of the media in each successive election, adding that the workshop was designed to further engage participants on how to broaden their horizon on inclusivity and professionalism to ensure credible elections in the state.
Ms. Akinjiyan went on to say that the workshop was organised to get journalists involved in educating voters about electoral and campaign issues, as well as the candidates’ activities during the election period. She also stated that journalists and media professionals should document campaign promises in order to hold politicians accountable once in office.
“We are here to brainstorm and exchange ideas on how we can effectively play the role expected of the media in the universally agreed-upon electoral and democratic process, and that is that the media should relay the information citizens require to enable them to make informed judgements,” she explained.
Additionally, she urged the participants to “monitor government and others and reveal abuses of political power, report politics on a daily basis as well as during election campaigns, provide information about registration and voting, crystallise the main currents of public opinion, give a voice to a wide range of interest groups, and provide the forum within which the public debate takes place,” she said in her conclusion.
The founder of the Journalism Clinic, Mr. Taiwo Obe, addressed the participants about the importance of public interest reporting and noted that journalism is about providing the public with information to help them make better decisions. By extension, he indicated that the role of the media during a particular season of election is to educate people about all the processes involved during the electioneering period.
Mr. Obe emphasised the types of information that journalists are expected to share with the public prior to election day, and he urged journalists to ensure that their reports addressed concerns about potential electoral offences and penalties, as well as the arrangements made for people with disabilities (PWDs) and elderly voters at polling places.
He went on to say that it is the responsibility of journalists to educate the public about the activities that take place on election day. He provided a list of pertinent questions to ask, such as “When does voting begin? When does it end? What do I do after voting? Can I be present during vote counting? Can I take a picture of my vote and share it on social media? Can I campaign for a candidate before or after I vote? Are electoral officials/law enforcement agencies performing their duties as expected?”
Mr Obe also urged participants to be aware of the dangers of false information during elections, noting that it is the responsibility of journalists to fact-check information before disseminating it to the public. He explained the steps to take in order to obtain information, saying that “it begins with a claim. – typically, without proof or evidence, seek proof or evidence from the claimant: he who asserts must prove to carry out independent verification (often a rigorous step, through publicly available records) a balanced conclusion.”
Ms. Angela Agoawike, Chief Executive Officer of Omalicha Radio Station, Owerri, stated in her speech on conflict reporting for peace during the election that conflict arises when there is no agreement or tolerance between two or more parties. She asserted that journalists must ensure that the public is informed in a conflict environment if the public is to make informed decisions about how to handle the conflict in society.
Ms Agoawike added that before relaying information to the public, journalists must understand the causes of conflicts and the parties involved, noting that while journalists are expected to be balanced and impartial in their reporting, the stories should serve as peace-building measures in society.
“In reporting conflicts, there is need not to take sides. While as a reporter you are moved towards the plight of the people, staying impartial is helpful, that is if you want your audience to properly understand the situation.
The goal here is to use your reportage to bring about peace, and that happens by treating conflicts with balance”, she said.
The head of Omalicha radio station continued by highlighting incidents that can cause conflict in society; she specifically mentioned non-state actor activities, security personnel reactions, rogue actor activities, and political actors and their supporters as the main sources of conflict during the electioneering period.
Ms Agoawike urged the participants to be knowledgeable about electoral law and make sure they hold the actors accountable when reporting conflict stories. She also suggested that media practitioners learn how to question the main actors for clarification and educate the public.
In another presentation, Ms Agoawike advocated for the incorporation of gender balance in election reporting by projecting women positively to the public based on their capabilities and abilities to execute policies in political offices.
Ms Agoawike continued by saying that journalists must start redressing gender disparity in newsrooms by showing appropriate respect to women who are leading media organisations and newsrooms as products of their labours, not of their outward appearances.
“Report women positively – their marital status or the state of their marriage is not indicative of the woman’s capabilities. The physical attributes of a woman are not indicative of her leadership capabilities or her ability to execute policies
“For gender integration to happen, there is a need for us all to be sensitive to gender issues, especially in the disparities due to cultural and social perceptions and work together to ensure that everyone with something to offer is carried along”, she concluded.
The Executive Director of the International Press Centre, Mr Lanre Arogungade, who was represented by the Editor of the Nigerian Democratic Report, Mr. Ayo Aluko-Olokun, spoke about the importance of the ‘Nigerian Media Code for Election Coverage,’ a guidebook for journalists reporting elections in the country.
Mr Aluko-Olokun explained that the code contains various sections that will assist journalists in carrying out their responsibilities during the election, urging them to follow its guidelines as the off-cycle elections approach. He also mentioned that the code has been built into a mobile application for easy access, which they can download on their smartphones for their reporting activities.
He explained that the code expects the journalist to be accurate in their reports, to be balanced and factually correct. journalists were advised to give equitable access to political parties and candidates in their reportage.