Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Recently, 40 journalists from the South-East and South-South geopolitical zones converged on BON Hotel Sunshine, Enugu, Enugu State, for a two-day intensive training programme on the best election reporting practices and professional reporting of the electoral process ahead of the 2019 general election.
The workshop, which was funded through Component 4b: Support to the Media, European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project, was “designed to build a professional media as catalysts of democratic accountability, credible elections, and good governance.”
The workshop, Daily Sun gathered, was organised to help participants further hone their skills in factual, balanced, accurate, and fair reporting before, during and after the elections which would commence on February 16 this year.
It was facilitated by the dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Professor Chinyere Okunna, the former general manager of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Radio One, Lagos, Funke-Treasure Durodola, and a public affairs analyst, Jide Ojo.
In his remarks, the director of the International Press Centre (IPC), Lanre Arogundade, stated that the event was organised to critically examine the interconnections between the public, the media and elections, towards developing an agenda that seeks to strengthen the role of the media in facilitating a credible electoral process.
Arogundade said: “The aim of the meeting also is to bring to the front burner the prerequisite to hone the skills of journalists in the professional and ethical reportage of democratic processes and elections as well as commit to professional, conflict-sensitive, citizen-focused, gender-focused and digital reporting of the 2019 elections.
“It is expected that the media, during the 2019 general election, with the facilitation of election stakeholders in Nigeria, will follow the global trends in the of use media as a political communication tool.
“It will also create equal opportunities for Nigerian politicians and political parties to tap into the opportunities offered by the media to reach and engage their constituents and voters, and use media tools to improve the efficiency of election observation.”
Arogundade, who underscored the critical agenda-setting role of the media, said that there was need for these to be deployed to support the integrity and credibility of elections, especially the 2019 polls: “In addition, the media have a critical agenda-setting role to support the integrity and credibility of elections.”
“Not only must they take a lead role in ensuring that citizens are adequately mobilised, they should also ensure that the entire process is open to public scrutiny.
“In the above regard, it is expected that this training will help participants to understand and imbibe the principles of fairness, diversity and objectivity in reporting the electoral process and the elections with the anticipation that this meeting will provide an integral opportunity for journalists to share their experiences to ensure best practice reporting for the 2019 elections,” Arogundade added.
Delivering a lecture on the topic “Conflict Sensitivity and Avoiding Hate Speech as Major Imperatives in Reporting Ahead of 2019,” Okunna advised journalists to shun hateful reports so as to avoid heating up the polity.
“One way of escalating conflict in reporting the electoral process is through hate speech. Conversely, avoiding hate speech through conflict-sensitive reporting is a fundamental tenet of a peace media system that is operating towards peacefulness in the society,” she said.
Okunna appealed to media professionals to pursue the ideals of peace media, which she said has “developed ideals, ethics, mores, value systems and institutions that minimise conflict or violence and promote peace within it and among the audience.”
Oh his part, Ojo, who spoke on “Integrating Socio-economic and Human Index Development Data Into Political Reporting Ahead 2019 Elections,” advised journalists to focus on socio-economic issues in their reportage to guide the electorate.
“Socio-economic issues such as health, education, poverty, unemployment, transportation, water and sanitation, industrialisation, power (electricity), state of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector, subsidy payment, agriculture, solid minerals, creative arts (music, films, and entertainment value chain), ICT, tourism, and sports should define campaigns for the 2019 elections”, he said.
Durodola dwelt on the topic “Reporting Post-elections, Paying Attention to Democratic Accountability.” She lamented that Africa was plagued by a catalogue of challenges, even as accountability was almost nonexistent.
“Africa’s democracy is plagued by weak institutions, leadership problems, poverty, human right abuse, corruption, unemployment, conflict, and other social vices that are antithetical to developmental principles of democracy,” she said.
She, however, noted that journalists have important roles to play, especially by embarking on regular, extensive, balanced reportage of events aimed at exposing the ills and educating the masses about government’s activities.