Stakeholders and practitioners in the Nigerian media industry gathered in Lagos last week to deliberate on the revised Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage. Organized by the International Press Centre (IPC) and funded by the European Union under component 4b: Support to the media of the EU support to democratic governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project,
Stakeholders and practitioners in the Nigerian media industry gathered in Lagos last week to deliberate on the revised Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage. Organized by the International Press Centre (IPC) and funded by the European Union under component 4b: Support to the media of the EU support to democratic governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project, the participants unanimously agreed that the importance of a code that guides the professional and ethical conduct of journalists covering elections cannot be overemphasized.
In his remark, The Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade noted that “The journey actually started in the countdown to 2015 elections when the first ever Nigeria media code of election coverage was launched with the endorsement of seven media stakeholders: Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Nigeria Guild of Editors, Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria, Radio Television Theater and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, Media Rights Agenda and International Press Centre.
‘The importance of a code that guides the professional and ethical conduct of journalists covering elections cannot be overemphasized. The reason for this is not farfetched. It is simply because during election time, a journalist performs all the core functions of the media almost simultaneously including servicing the political system, providing information for citizens to make informed choices, holding government accountable, giving voice to the voiceless, monitoring campaigns and so on.”
One of the major changes is in the section is that deals with hate speech. One of the observations in the last election is that despite the code there were hate advertorials, so the section on hate speech has been expanded. We also have major issues in the area that deals with social media. The provisions in the 2014 code doesn’t have strong sections on social media, but this one emphasis the need for media organizations to have social media policy
One of the sections of the code states clearly that “A media organisation shall have an anti-hate speech reporting policy that clearly states among others, that the hate speech or inciting messages are not permitted on social media platforms. Another area of this new code is the area that addresses compliance and enforcement.
The next step now is to get more stakeholders’ endorsement, hold meetings and work towards the public launch later this year and dissemination.
Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, of Premium Times, while addressing the gathering, said: “Regulations should be put in place to check excess practices. Ultimately, three elements define the practice we call journalism. First of all, its claims must be truthful and accurate. Second, its discipline must be rooted in verification; and the practitioners must be independent and be accountable to their readers/viewers listeners. V
He added that the code is optimistic. It is far more advanced and easier to implement. People can relate to the recommendations and I think it is a challenge to the management of newsroom organizations. The documents should be taken to the various media organizations
Speaking further, he emphasized on the need for journalists to counter hate speech and fake news on social media due to its potential danger.
“We need a language to respond to misinformation and fakery. We must accept that while social media promotes inclusion and participatory citizenry through expanded access and information sharing, its capacity to be negative can be tremendous,” he said.
Chairman, Lagos Council, NUJ, Qasim Akinreti, expressed concern on how to get journalists comply with the code of election coverage.
He said, “Getting journalists to comply is critical. I suggest that we make this part and parcel of their electives in the university or schools of journalism.”
General Secretary, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Ms Victoria Ibanga, expressed gratitude for the initiative and hailed it as “the right step in the right direction.”
In his speech, National President Radio, Television Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU) Dr Kabir Tsanni stated that I must appreciate the thorough work that is done. If followed, it will go a long way in ensuring free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. The manner in which stakeholders’ role are clarified leaves no ambiguity for any confusion. Therefore we hope that we are on the right path to peaceful as well as credible elections in 2019. I want to observe that the media mirrors its society. However, the society has a fundamental role in helping the media do the needful. Consequently, I am hoping that the general society will realize the urgent need to support the media in its onerous task contributing its quota towards a credible election and other issues of national development.
She said, “We need to act on it. Writing the Code is one thing, making it work is another thing. In essence, creating awareness is important as well as implementation of the provisions of the Code.”
Mr. Oluwole Uzzi who represented the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC said “We at INEC take this very seriously. We were involved in the first Code of Election Coverage in 2014 and we are also involved in this one. There is certainly more commitment to make it work this time around.
“We will help in disseminating it. When we get the copies we will ensure compliance of the code due to our bilateral relationship. Big thanks to IPC,” he said.
Speaking on the impact of IPC on journalism in Nigeria, Arogundade said “I think we have impacted by capacity building that we have carried out in terms of doing specialized training and upgrade of knowledge for journalists. We have covered such areas as election reporting, investigative journalism, community journalism, accountability reporting, budget and corruption reporting and we have also impacted by a way of publication of media resource books.”
Some of the participants were: General Secretary, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mrs. Victoria Ibanga; Director IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade; President, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Chairman, Lagos Council, NUJ, Dr. Qasim Akinreti; Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda, Mr. Edetaen Ojo; Publisher, Premium Times Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, and Director of Voters Education and Publicity of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mr. Oluwole Osaze Uzzi.