Media Monitoring Report Shows Decline in Hate Speech, as IPC Presents Revised Media Code

Media Monitoring Report Shows Decline in Hate Speech, as IPC Presents Revised Media Code

A media monitoring report that reviewed trends and activities in 15 print and online newspapers in the months of October and November 2022, has returned a pass mark verdict on the media for the elimination of hate speech in their reports. For this, a university don has commended the media noting that they have contributed

A media monitoring report that reviewed trends and activities in 15 print and online newspapers in the months of October and November 2022, has returned a pass mark verdict on the media for the elimination of hate speech in their reports. For this, a university don has commended the media noting that they have contributed to the reduction of conflict in the society.

The verdict elicited joy and satisfaction in the audience composed largely of journalists, media managers and civil society organisations. It all happened at a two-in-one roundtable event hosted by the International Press Centre (IPC) to present a media monitoring report for the months of October and November as well as the revised edition of the Media Code of Election Coverage.

Celebrated Professor of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika gave her verdict: “based on this report, I am scholar. I use facts to defend myself. Based on this report we (the media) have done well but we can do better”. She commended the IPC for employing 10 researchers for the monitoring activities also said it was worthy of note that the monitoring activity was an independent study.

Prof Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika

Her words;” when you look at the period under review, there was no hate speech. If we can do that, we reduce conflict. It means we are conflict sensitive and I want us to keep it up because we need to have national cohesion. We need peace for us to have reliable elections. That is part of our contribution to national development”.

Throwing more light on the events in his opening remarks, the Executive Director, IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade said; “this roundtable is pursuant to the aims and objectives of Component 4: Support to Media of EU-SDGNII project being implemented by IPC (lead partner) and the Institute for Media and Society (IMS) to enhance the Nigerian media’s role in promoting democratic governance through Fair, Accurate, Ethical and Inclusive Coverage of Electoral Processes and Elections in Nigeria,”

He stated that “monitoring helps to measure the amount of professionalism, ethical compliance and access to parties and candidates, especially in the context of the guidelines provided by the relevant frameworks that govern media role at elections including the Electoral law, statutory regulations such as the Nigeria Broadcasting Code and self-regulatory like the Media Code of Election Coverage.

“The overall goal of the gamut of activities under the project including but not limited to capacity building for journalists on issue focussed, factually accurate and conflict-sensitive reporting of elections, capacity building for female candidates on strategic communications and media use and engagements on countering disinformation and misinformation, are designed to ensure that journalists and their news mediums pay maximum attention to ethics, professionalism and inclusivity, because such help to help facilitate credible elections, without which democracy cannot be consolidated.

He said in presenting the monitoring reports and the revised Media Code of Election Coverage, the occasion will afford the media the opportunity to assess how well it has so far fared in the performance of its duties and obligations adding that the lessons of the 2019 monitoring exercise informed the design and the approach of the current monitoring exercise which centred around the 2023 elections.

“First, we have increased the number of the print and online newspapers to fifteen from twelve, consisting of 10 print newspapers (The Punch, The Guardian, Daily Sun, Vanguard, ThisDay, Nigerian Tribune, The Nation, Leadership, Daily Trust, and Daily Independent) and 4 online newspapers – The Cable, the Premium Times, Eagle Online, RealNews and Authority). However, based on feedback from the field we shall from February 2023 further increase the number to 20 – ten print and ten Online – in order for us to have larger media samples across the country. The five Online newspapers being added are Wikki Times, Qualitative magazine, Next Edition, PenPushing and IKENGA.

“Secondly, we have introduced a reward system under the current exercise. Thus, on a quarterly basis we shall recognise and give awards to news mediums that excel in the coverage of the issues of women, youths and persons with disability in terms of the volume of reports and the prominence given to the reports. We shall soon announce the winners for the first quarter – October to December, 2022″, he said.

Speaking on the Nigerian Media Code of Elections Coverage in Reporting the 2023 electoral process, Me Arogundade disclose that some of the provisions of the Code have been amended or improved, stressing that the Code now specifically requires journalists and their news mediums to avoid disinformation and misinformation to ensure the credibility of electoral information.

He urged all journalists who will be on election duty to take their safety seriously stressing that;” experience has shown that journalists face harassment during elections by security agents, political party supporters and others, with IPC recording about 250 of such incidents in 2019″.

Speaking on perspectives on trend in media coverage of elections from the monitoring report, Dr. Chido Onumah of the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy suggested that civil society should be involved in future presentation of the monitoring report. “Overall, I am impressed by the quality of work and the energy put into the report”.

In his contribution, Dr. Iyobosa Uwuagiaren, General Secretary, Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) commended journalists for the no hate speech during the period of the monitoring activity. “We need to sustain it. We also need to interrogate our sources. Don’t trust your source,” he counselled. “As reporters, we must develop the culture and discipline of verifying whatever reporter’s get from sources. He said journalists have a huge responsibility to help deepen democracy by providing credible information for citizens to make rational decisions.

Delivering a goodwill message, Comrade Akpausoh Akpausoh urged journalists to consider their safety while covering elections and commended the Media that fake news, hate speech, misinformation has reduced in the media space.

Ms Glory Ohagwu who represented Ms Ladi Bala the NAWOJ President commended IPC for training female journalists for the forth coming elections. She demanded for more female journalists as participants and discussants. She also appealed to media organisations to have confidence in female journalists and post them to cover elections

Almost unusual for a professional body to self evaluate itself, but that was exactly what the media did at the IPC event on Tuesday in Abuja.

Prof. Abigail Ogwezzy – Ndidika of the department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos who conducted an expert review on the report says; “It is a kind of self evaluation that we have done. Self evaluation is important for us to shape our work”. She gave other opinions:

Observations on the Media Monitoring Report

We found out that inclusivity is poor in terms of sourcing for news. And so, we are practically reporting those people we have been reporting in the past. It has become more urban centric. We should dwell more on the subnational level. That will improve our work. I also found out that about three or four parties are having visibility in the media, so, what happened to the other political parties? These are questions we should ask ourselves. We should also look at how we frame our reports /our stories. Perhaps the way we frame it could it be as a result of ‘ who’s that makes the story news may also be accountable? We should also have a rethink on the angle and perspective we bring into our story.

From the reports, you also found out that looking at the fact that you have voicelessness for women, people with disability, youths people in hard- to – reach areas, we have to be deliberate since we are in the era of media convergence, make our stories multimedia so that we can speak to the people in the rural areas and have their voices included, so that will give us more inclusivity. Essentially, we need to be deliberate in inclusivity in our reportage.

On Assessment of Media Performance in October and November 2022

Based on this report, I am a scholar, I use facts to defend myself, based on this report, we have done well, but we can do better and that is why we are here. Because when you look at the period under review, there was no hate speech. If we can do that, we reduce conflict. It means we are conflict sensitive and I want us to keep that up because we need to have national cohesion. We need peace for us to have credible elections that is part of our contribution to national development.

Mr Lanre Arogundade Spoke on the Essence of the Event and Other Matters

The essence of this event is to have a brief discussion on how well we are doing as journalists in the course of our covering the on-going electoral process and elections. Because to do that, we have been monitoring some newspapers and some on- line media. We want to see from the outcome of the monitoring, have an idea how well we have been performing, how we have been doing our job and the challenges.

Secondly, we decided to have this event for us to present the revised media code of election coverage and in the course of presentation talk about some of the challenges that we are facing because one thing is for us to say as journalists, we must be ethical and professional. Another thing is for the conducive environment to be provided for us and that was why I talked about the political parties and the need to come together and ensure that we are protected.

On Safety and Rights of Journalists
Our safety matters. Journalists get attacked while covering activities. They get molested. In 2019, even journalists that were accredited were still molested by security agents. We are using this occasion to draw the attention of INEC, government, particularly the security agencies and the political parties to their own responsibility, if they want to cover this election effectively, for example, it would be wrong for any political party or candidate to deny anyone of us access to any of their public events because the Nigerian Code of Media Coverage says they should give us free access. When some of them believe we are not doing what is right, what we are saying is; make use of the regulatory mechanisms to lodge your complaints but not to go after individual journalists who are on the field.

We have also convened this gathering in order for us to talk about our own protection; our own safety as journalists because we have some rights which don’t exercise.

If you are told to cover election in an area where there is likely going to be outbreak of violence, even if there is no violence, we have a right to demand for insurance cover from our employers because anything that happens, we have what we call ‘the risk factor in the coverage of elections. It is also our rights to check our health status. Don’t say because you are looking good you are okey. Make sure you see your physician before you go out to the field and if your physician says you need a rest, tell your Editor and demand for such a rest.

Sometimes violence breaks out during campaigns many of us are so eager to capture it, we are saying be careful. We don’t want anything to happen to us because if you go out and if something happens to you, it won’t stop your news medium from publishing the story the next day. Perhaps what you may get in the newsroom is a minute silence. The story will go on.

We are making appeal to security agents that what happened in 2019 should not repeat itself. If a journalist is accredited and is able to show evidence of accreditation, and in addition to that the ID card of his or her organization or that of NUJ or Guild, any policeman or soldier should know that the Journalist is not a busy body and therefore should not be molested in any way. This appeal is very important.

On Journalists Killed or Molested in 2019 Elections

No journalist was killed in 2019, but about 250 were molested across the country including some of them who are accredited, particularly by overzealous law enforcement agencies. Among them were those that were attacked during campaigns. You will recall that when a governorship campaign was being launched in Lagos, and there was violence involving party thugs, three journalists were shot and hit by stray bullets. We have many of that and they are documented.

As we move into 2023 elections, we are going to be monitoring the situation of journalists and we are calling on journalists that if you are facing any attacks, let us know so the we can speak out so that we can inform relevant agencies. But beyond elections, it is worrisome that not less than nine journalists have been killed and there has been no investigation, talk – less of prosecution of the killers. It is a reality in Nigeria that journalists are facing a lot of threats.

On Journalists and Bullet Proof Vests
I don’t know whether if you wear a bullet proof vest you will not be violating the police Act. I don’t know whether it is allowed but we need to have the conversation with them. But why not? Especially camera men? If police can give us bullet proof vest once we are accredited, we will be happy. What we are saying is that on election day, your life matters. As a matter of fact,we should ask our employers to give us some protective wears. Provisions for our protection should come from the police, our employers. And INEC has a role to play.

I know there is a security meeting involving INEC Chairman and security chiefs. We are also using this forum go appeal to INEC Chairman to make the issue of journalists covering elections an item on the agenda for fair engagement with security agents. I also feel policemen on election duties need to be given some orientation and maybe this engagement can involve media professional bodies like the NUJ, Guild of Editors etc for them to know what journalists do on election day and for us to know our limit. If we do all these, we are confident they what happened in 2019 will not happen in February and March 2023.

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