By Raji Rasaq Women in politics as well as other underrepresented groups such as the Youths and People Living with Disabilities (PWDs) have been advised to engage effectively in order to enjoy considerable space in the media. This was suggested by Mr. Bolaji Adebiyi, former Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on media, during his
By Raji Rasaq
Women in politics as well as other underrepresented groups such as the Youths and People Living with Disabilities (PWDs) have been advised to engage effectively in order to enjoy considerable space in the media. This was suggested by Mr. Bolaji Adebiyi, former Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on media, during his visit to the Director, International Press Centre, (IPC), Mr. Lanre Arogundade.
In his interaction with the media monitors on a project, being funded by the European Union Support for Democracy and Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN), under the component 4b of the support to the media, Adebiyi, also Editor of ThisDay newspaper, reacted to some of the findings of the media monitoring exercise that showed low level of media coverage of the marginalized groups including women and persons-living-with-disabilities.
For instance, result of survey carried out in ten national newspapers and two online news mediums in June, 2018 showed that, between June 1st and June 30th 2019, while only 1.6% of all media reports on political and electoral issues focused on women, 0.24% focused on persons-living-with-disabilities.
In his reaction, most of the marginalized groups have not been adequately reported because they were doing very little or nothing to access the media. He added that members of these groups rarely had personal contacts of political reporters, let alone having one-on-one conversation with them. In his words, “Women in politics especially don’t speak to the media. Some of them don’t even read the news about them. Even when reporters approach them, they don’t speak to big issues. And media is interested in who is making the news, what is making the news and who is supporting the media in terms of advert placement. You report those ones first”.
While being reminded that the primary responsibilities of the media was to report the people and not the noise, Mr. Adebiyi noted that “today’s news media is facing a lot of challenges, particularly, economic challenge. To report people, you must be in business first. And to be in business, you report what sells newspapers and what brings money mostly is advert. You’ve to report people who approach the media, not those who are not ready, because reporters can’t be looking for them everywhere”.
Asked by the media monitors the way forward to ensure equitable access of the marginalized groups to the media, he suggested that women, youths and PLWDs should always endeavour to engage their community newspapers if there were any. “Once their issues are being reported in the community news mediums, and they’re persistent, gradually, their voices will be heard loud and clear.”
He also suggested that the underrepresented groups should start from somewhere, build their ranks gradually so that they could have their voice heard in the national media. To do that, he stressed the need for consistency in their own little way by reaching out to political reporters. Again, he suggested that the groups should make noise on big issues and also connect with people who make news.
On Political Parties Reporting, Adebiyi also expressed his doubt over the possibility of according equitable share of the media space to all political parties registered by the INEC, contesting 2019 elections. As it stands today, there are sixty-eight registered political parties in the country. According to him, media reporting would likely continue to be biased towards the so-called big political parties since they have the wherewithal to access the media than other minor political parties. This was also coupled with the fact that, he said, the media survived on the patronage of big political parties’ advert placements because news media essentially had become business. In his words, “it’s not possible to report all political parties”.
As expected, findings of the media survey often form the template and resource materials for media capacity building organized for political reporters. When media monitors sought his reaction, as an editor, on whether series of media workshops organized for journalists have been impactful on their ethics and professionalism, Mr. Adebiyi said it was important for stakeholders to do an evaluation of the capacity building workshops for journalists to ascertain whether there had been impacts or not.
While also reacting to question bordering on editors’ inability to attend capacity building workshops organized by civil societies, he said “editors are very busy professionals. They work round the clock. In as much as training is very important to any professional, particularly when it is free, no editor will object to that to upgrade themselves. But most time, editors don’t attend capacity building for journalists because they are always very busy”. On the way forward, he said project implementing partners organizing capacity building should find a means of engaging editors in a way that is in tandem with their busy schedule.