Acknowledging the pivotal responsibility of the media in achieving credible elections in the coming polls, despite economic, security and environmental challenges facing the country, the International Press Centre (IPC) convened a workshop with online journalists and bloggers on conflict-sensitive reporting. The one- day skill enhancing workshop which held virtually was in partnership with the Institute
Acknowledging the pivotal responsibility of the media in achieving credible elections in the coming polls, despite economic, security and environmental challenges facing the country, the International Press Centre (IPC) convened a workshop with online journalists and bloggers on conflict-sensitive reporting.
The one- day skill enhancing workshop which held virtually was in partnership with the Institute for Media and Society (IMS) within component 4 (support to media) of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria to mitigate the proliferation of sensationalism and hate speech and highlight the effect of unethical reportage of the 2023 election.
Facilitated by veteran media practitioners including Professor Muyiwa Popoala, Professor of Journalism, Communication and Media Studies, Ajayi Crowther University, Dr Qasim Akinreti, Deputy Director Digital Media, Voice of Nigeria, and Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of INEC, who also gave a goodwill message.
In his goodwill message, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, stated that as the country prepares for the coming election, the commission has been facing several conflicts and violence in some of its offices across the country.
He also noted that the electoral commission has been battling with the menace of fake news, which has been a huge challenge to its activities. He pleaded with journalists and media practitioners to verify their stories before publishing them to the public. He also urged them to avoid unethical stigmatisation when reporting conflict-based reports, noting that it can escalate violence beyond control.
With much emphasis on the essence of sticking to professionalism and ethics in reporting election campaigns, Dr Qasim Akinreti lamented the lack of ethical practices among some online journalists and bloggers in the country, particularly, during elections. He expressed his dissatisfaction that media platforms have turned the profession of journalism into an entrepreneurial business which has been swayed away by monetary gains, instead of its revered principles.
Speaking on the difference between online writers and mainstream journalists, Dr Akinreti stated that the eagerness and the urge to break the news for recognition and popularity as opposed to the style of mainstream media platforms have potential values they protect. He also decried journalists’ lack of familiarity with the Electoral Act and the Nigerian Media Code of Elections coverage.
“The beauty of Media practice in the 21st century is the full deployment of technology for news gathering, editing, and producing news, features, and documentaries for end users, whose demographics have changed considerably. These technology tools are – Computers, the Internet, mobile phones, and lately the use of drones. These are used by individuals, groups called Bloggers, or Online Journalists who in most cases are not trained journalists. Those who are trained Journalists have failed to abide by the rules of engagement or ethics of the profession
“These are citizens who are activists, with strong views, who do not share the values of the mainstream media. They just want to publish, broadcast, and be damned. In the current political dispensation, they do not understand the electoral laws or the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage”, Dr Akinreti noted.
Referencing several cases of unprofessional practices which have resulted in hate speeches and incitements, Dr Akinreti urged online journalists to embrace balance and objective reporting. He urged the participants to further embrace professionalism while reporting the electioneering process. He also advocated for balanced and inclusive stories in their journalistic endeavour.
“Adherence to Professionalism – stick to facts of campaign issues reporting campaigns and elections accurately and without bias verify all allegations made against a party, candidate, or any other interests. Reflect all sides of the story report only facts based on electoral information inclusive reporting on the rights of women, youths and people with disabilities”, he concluded.
Speaking on Conflict Sensitive Principles, Professor Muyiwa Popoola, analysed the effect of conflict in the political setting, the society, and how media practitioners can mitigate its expansion in their reportage. Alluding to the past conflict scenarios in the history of Nigerian politics, he highlighted that only peaceful media practices can make reduce the growth of conflict in the coming elections.
Professor Popoola also expatiated his presentation by noting that conflict in the political setting arises from relationships and harmony, which originates from needs, values, values and resources. He explained that such practice is known as personality-induced political conflict, and it emanates from political godfatherism
“It is very important for us to get acquainted with the fact that the conflicts we have been experiencing in Nigeria right from the first republic are called personality-induced political conflict. This is a type of conflict that arises from political relationships, associations and harmonies that are rooted in needs, values, interests and resources, so in a situation where there is a clash of interests, there is conflict.
“Personality in this political conflict is made possible by what we call prebandalism, and on the one hand, political godfatherism on the other hand. Most of the political conflict we have in this country, it is either on is prebendal and the other is driven by political godfatherism”, he stated
Explaining the role of media in peace promotion in the country, the Professor of media studies noted that Nigerian journalists can amplify their professionalism to a conflict-sensitive reporting approach. He added that the media is in the right position to contribute to peaceful initiatives, despite the diverse cultural and political standpoints in the country.
He further explained how the media can prioritise reconciliation among the conflicting political class. “It can emphasize the benefits of peace by raising the legitimacy of groups and political leaders working for peace.
“It can help transform the images of the enemy among rival political and social groups involved in the country’s recurrent social and political conflicts.
“ Amid most social conflicts, the media are privileged to be in a position to contribute to peace initiatives, especially in reconciling various factions after political turbulence”, he stated.
Emphasising the implication of language use in conflict-sensitive reporting, he urged the participants to focus on constantly deploying subtle languages which could de-escalate violence in their reportage. Professor Popoola warned them to eschew the promotion of hate speech and reports of one-sided stories in their journalistic works.
“The conflict-sensitive approach to reporting is rooted in the belief that the news media in many societies can be a powerful force to reduce the causes of hate speech and enable a hate-speech-stressed society to pursue better peacefulness”, he explained.
In his conclusion, he beckoned media practitioners to be balanced, fair and peace conscious by steering clear of reporting that can escalate conflicts and violence in society.
IPC Director, Mr Lanre Arogundade also presented the Nigerian Media Code of Elections Coverage, a publication from the IPC to serve as a guide for journalists during the election periods. In his remarks, Mr Arogundade noted that the media code encompasses needed tools for journalists to perform their duties professionally, ethically and r safely.
He stated that the media code of elections has already been endorsed by over 150 media platforms including the parent bodies like the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Broadcasting organisation of Nigeria, and Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria among others.
He added that the media code has 7 sections which focus on how journalists can discharge their duties successfully during the elections. He added that the code is also based on what is expected of all stakeholders during the electioneering process. “The media code is predicated on the principle and expectation of relevant stakeholders, including government at all levels, the law enforcement and security agencies, ” he stated.
In their reactions to the workshop, some of the participants described the event as an insightful workshop, which did not only enlighten them but also answered their questions about conflict reporting. To show their commitment to conflict-sensitive reporting, the participants also expressed their thoughts on the training.
Azuh Arinze, a participant, promised to imbibe the tenets of professionalism that were taught in the training “Going forward, all of us must be professional in our reports. Not only for the image of our organisations but also for the unity of our country”, he said.
Ayo Hidayat also commented that the training has exposed her as a journalist to ensure that her reports are aloof of conflict. She also promised to avoid fake news going forward. “As a journalist, I will ensure that my reports do not arouse a conflict, but a balanced reportage. Also, ensure that fake news is not reported but wait for INEC announcement before breaking news”, she said.
“As the chairman Online Media Practitioner, Edo State, I will extend knowledge gained here to other members. I will also avail them the code as a guide for conduct, among other things”, Otunba Mike Aladenika, the Chairman Online Media Practitioners, Edo state noted in his commitment and post-training comments.
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