This topic is very important at this time, given the fact that election periods in Nigeria are normally considered by politicians as do or die affairs. It is therefore auspicious for us as Media Professionals to brainstorm ahead of the election year so as to prepare ourselves very well for the onerous task ahead.
The 2023 Nigerian elections will be held, in large part, on 25 February and 11 March 2023. The President and Vice President will be elected on 25 February, with incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari ineligible to run, being term-limited, but his party has thrown up its Candidates for the various positions at stake. Similarly,there will also be elections on the same day for the Senate and the House of Representatives. On 11 March, twenty-eight gubernatorial elections will be held alongside elections to state houses of assembly in all the 36 States of the Federation.
Peace Journalism/Conflict Sensitive and Election Reporting
In whatever we do as Journalists,it is very necessary to take the issue of peace as a cardinal point and take into consideration the need to be careful so that areas that are already fragile do not explode or implode.
Peace is a basic requirement in a democracy. No democracy can flourish in the absence of peace. While, we concede that it is inevitable to eliminate crises and conflicts from our society, however it is important if deliberate efforts are made toward conflict resolution and peace building.
How then can journalists use the power of the mass media to resolve rather than inflame conflicts? How can we as responsible citizens and media professionals help in ensuring a smooth and peaceful democratic transition? Is it possible to use the media pro-actively to help the complex process of conflict management and transformation to peaceful co-existence?
Most importantly,while examining the ethical issues involved in reporting elections and conflicts, how can we play any constructive role in conflict and Post Conflict Scenarios?
As Journalists, we are expected to develop a thorough understanding of the elections and the electoral process, an understanding of conflicts and convey these to citizens in a way that reflect the truth in all their complexities.The proper foundation established by Journalists will provide citizens with the opportunities they require to make informed judgments about issues involved and perhaps help the government in taking meaningful decisions.
Media professionals should brace up for the challenges ahead, especially since they are expected to participate in the process of social reconstruction and democratisation by providing a positive and participatory forum for the exchange of ideas, democracy and nation building and while discharging their duties Journalists should never attempt to deviate from the ethics of the profession because it will not auger well for the nation. Since the role of the media in Nigeria’s emerging democracy is central, media professionals must maintain the highest possible standards in their practice.
The role of the media in peace promotion or conflict escalation has been heightened by a number of factors which include ownership and funding, editorial policy and the regulatory agencies, therefore it is proper to suggest peace journalism as an instrument in promoting peace and reducing dysfunctional conflict to the barest minimum.
The media have a vital role to play in nation building, by being active partners in the implementation of the development processes. They are veritable instruments and are therefore central to any input-output functions of any political system. However, there may be constraints of the media in this regard which among others include lack of conducive working environment, mass poverty, poor remuneration and lack of adequate training.
It should be noted that the emergence of our country as a democracy in 1999 was a product of collective efforts of Nigerians as represented by the mass media and civil society. Despite its challenges, democracy has provided Nigerians with space to freely discuss their affairs. Every single day of democratic governance in Nigeria helps to further deepen democratic values in the country. Our role as journalists is to facilitate easy access to information that will enhance participation in governance and ultimately enable citizens make informed choices during elections.
We are conscious of our professional responsibility to gather, collate, process and disseminate news. Through this role, we act as gate keepers who determine which news material to disseminate especially against the background of the myriads of available news material.
Using the means of new technology to reach a mass audience, the journalist influences opinions, builds perceptions and mediates among contending social and political forces. We act as mirror for the society to view itself while also influencing social realities.
Clearly, while we have contributed to the process of democratic sustainability in Nigeria in the past 23 years or thereabout, we are also interested in its future. Therefore the 2023/general election is important to all journalists especially because it will further stabilise our democracy and strengthen the democratic culture in Nigerian.
The NUJ is committed to improving the ethical standard of news reportage during elections. We are keen in ensuring that Nigerian Journalists undertake their professional duties within the ambit of the Electoral Law and other regulations. Professionally, we desire to improve the news judgment of the journalist as it affects elections and elections related issues.
Media Professionals should be actively involved in the Pre-voting stage during which electoral frameworks may be developed or refined and boundaries may be defined to ascertain voter eligibility. During this phase, voter and civic education, Voter registration, party nominations, and electoral campaigns also take place.
The process of voting where citizens come to cast their votes is also very important for the media to be active participants. In addition to the casting of votes, this phase also includes vote counting and the verification of results. It is therefore another critical stage where the attention of Journalists is very key. It is the responsibility of Journalists to provide the necessary information whethr the electoral system is fair and equitable, without ethnic- or regionally-based discrimination.
The media must always beam their searchlight on the Election management body- INEC to ensure that it is impartial and competent, that it embraces transparency and inclusivity in its composition and mandate in order to discharge its duties effectively.
The role of Journalists in the proper functioning of a democracy cannot be ignored. Their “watchdog” role should center on unfettered scrutiny and discussion of the successes and failures of politicians , governments, and the electoral management body. Journalists should inform the public of how effectively they have performed and help to hold them to account.
Other roles of media professionals should include educating voters on how to exercise their democratic rights by reporting on election campaigns through providing equal platforms for the political parties and candidates to communicate their messages to the electorate.
Similarly, they should provide a platform for the public to communicate their concerns, opinions, and needs, to the parties/candidates, to the EMB( INEC) the government, and to other voters, and to interact on these issues.
Another important responsibility is bringing the parties and candidates to debate with each other. This is a veritable means through which voters can have ideas on where to cast their votes.
It is the duty of Journalists to report election results as released or provided by INEC, and monitoring the entire process of vote counting. They should scrutinise the electoral process itself, including electoral management, in order to evaluate the fairness of the process, its efficiency, and its probity.Journalists must provide information that, as far as possible, avoids inflammatory language, thus helping to prevent election-related violence.
Social Media, Fake News and Hate Speech.
Journalists must avoid hate journalism, and fake news as these evils can destroy a society.
The advent of multi-media technology has changed the pattern and flow of communication, globally and since journalism is in the business and practice of Communication, it has also been impacted upon tremendously.
Social media platforms have thrown up challenges and opportunities for the practice of journalism which many journalists and their media organisations have not embraced.
Social media is both a threat and yet affords opportunities for journalism and businesses especially in Nigeria. It is a healthy trend but there is need for change in roles between traditional media and social media.Journalists need to avail themselves of the opportunities being provided by the Social Media Platforms to provide credible information and reduce the prevalence of hate speech and fake news. This will assist immeasurably in dousing tension in the polity.
The media plays a major role in keeping the citizenry abreast of current events and raising awareness of various issues in any society. It also has an extremely significant impact on the public’s views and way of thinking. The media is the primary means through which public opinion is shaped and at times manipulated. If this is the media’s role then in normal course of events, it becomes even more vital in exceptional periods, one of which is electoral junctures, when the media becomes a primary player. Elections constitute a basic challenge to the media, putting its impartiality and objectivity to the test. The task of the media, especially national media outlets, is not and should not be to function as a mouthpiece for any government body or particular candidate. Its basic role is to enlighten and educate the public and act as a neutral, objective platform for the free debate of all points of view. (“Media and Parliamentary Elections in Egypt: Evaluation of Media Performance in the Parliamentary Elections” Human Rights Movement Issues 26, (Cairo, Egypt: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, 2011): 27)
Journalists in Nigeria should work towards the advancement of the right of freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of the press, media independence, conflict transformation and peace building. These are prerequisites for open governance and development, which ultimately serve the public interest.
In order to properly advance public interests, earn public trust and be watchdogs of the society, the pursuit of truth and public good must be the cornerstone of journalism practice in Nigeria. This makes it obligatory for every journalist to maximally comply with ethical principles and professional standards. It also makes it obligatory for every journalist to be entitled to decent wages, protection from attacks or hazards and conducive working environment.
It is our hope that participants will avail themselves of this training opportunity to ensure that a level playing field is provided for all political actors and ensure that peoples’ votes will count through a highly professional management of news by journalists who are equipped with international best practices. This is the only way we as professionals can advance the course of peace and ensure a credible and peaceful transition.
Being the text of a keynote address delivered by the President of the Nigeria Union Journalists (NUJ), Chris Isiguzo, at a Training on Election and Conflict Sensitive Reporting for Journalists in the South-South organized by the Center Democracy and Development (CDD) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), held in Port Harcourt, this week.
By: Chris Isiguzo
Isiguzo is the President of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
Kogi Gov’ship Election Petitions Stolen By Gunmen – Police
The Kogi State Police Command has confirmed that gunmen attacked the secretary of the state governorship election tribunal, Mr David Umar Mike on Monday in Lokoja and made away with sensitive petition documents on the just concluded gubernatorial election in the state.
The state police command’s Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP William Aya, disclosed this in Lokoja on Wednesday.
The police authorities said the attackers of the state governorship tribunal secretary carted away all the petition documents filed by five political parties at gunpoint.
According to the police authorities, the documents carted away from Mike include, petitions filed by four (4) Parties: Action Alliance (AA), Action People’s Party (APP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) as well as two (2) Record Books/a Bag containing his personal item.
The police added that the incident happened just before the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) office at about 13:20hrs on Monday, while victims were on their way to the tribunal venue at the state High Court complex, Lokoja.
Police said, “On Monday, 04/12/2023 at about 1820hrs, one Mr David Umar Mike ‘m’ Secretary to Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal along with Labode Apreala (f) Confidential Secretary and Hassimu Adamu Assistant Secretary, came to State Criminal Investigation Department, Kogi State Police Headquarters and reported that on the said date, three of them left their Hotel rooms in Lokoja about 1300hrs, heading to their Office at the High Court Complex driving in his (David’s) Peugeot 406 Car.
“That just before the CBN at about 1320hrs, one SUV vehicle which had earlier overtaken him blocked his car with two other SUVs following behind.
“All of them surrounded and blocked him as he attempted to reverse. That he saw about seven hooded men all heavily armed and dressed in black attire who shot severally into the air and dragged him and his two other colleagues out of their car, ransacked the car and made away with all the petition documents.”
SP Aya added that the state Commissioner of Police, CP Onuoha Benthrand, had ordered for a thorough and diligent investigation into the incident.
Meanwhile, the police command has advised the general public to avoid statements that may prejudice ongoing investigation into the matter even as the command appealed to anyone with useful information on the incident to provide same to the command.
SDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) had traded words over the attack on Monday with both sides pointing an accusing finger at each other.
While the SDP alleged that the attack was perpetrated by hired political thugs, the APC said it was staged.
Benue LGs Dissolution Lawless – Senate Minority Leader
The Senate Minority Leader and Senator representing Benue South, Abba Moro, has condemned the recent dissolution of local government chairmen in the state by Governor Hyacinth Alia, describing it as “lawlessness”.
In an interview on live television, Wednesday, Senator Moro expressed his disapproval of the Governor’s action, stating that it was a violation of the Nigerian Constitution.
He maintained that the governor did not have the power to unilaterally dissolve elected officials, and such actions could only be taken through due process and legal means.
He said, “Let me say clearly from the beginning, the constitution doesn’t provide for caretaker. Two years plus ago, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Ekiti State that sacked council chairmen that the governors do not have power to sack local government council and constitute caretaker committees.
“And even went further to say that the state houses of assembly do not have power to dissolve councils and that the state governors do not hide under laws made by the state assembly to dissolve elected councils.
“How can you now say you are investigating 23 local governments, 276 council wards and all of them have been found corrupt? If you find somebody, prosecute him.
“The issue now is that the action that the State House of Assembly has taken which they said he followed is wrong. What is wrong is wrong.
“This is the lawlessness that is taking place in Benue State. Is that correct? We must rise up against this thing.”
Third Republic Lawmakers Demand Unpaid Salaries, Allowances
Former lawmakers elected in the Third Republic, on Wednesday, demanded the immediate payment of their unpaid salaries and allowances to make ends meet.
The lawmakers made the plea while leading a delegation of the Third Republic Forum to present an award of selfless service to an alumnus of the Third House of Assembly and current member representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency, Bayelsa State, Frederick Agbedi.
A member of the group, Basil Okafor, said President Bola Tinubu, who was elected Senator on the platform of the Social Democratic Party belonged to the set now battling to have their entitlements paid to them
“The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an octopus in battle, has fought from 1992 till date to make input and he is today the President. We have a lot of problems that we now think that having a President who is one of us, having members of the House of Representatives and multiple Senators, that some of these problems can be addressed. We have problems with our claims and salaries that were not paid at that time. We have problems that we are seeking the face of this government to see how they can help us resolve.
“And we know that having Agbedi here, he can help us coordinate his fellow members to champion this cause and the press should also help us in any way to highlight some of these problems that are facing us because we are the old boys of this current government,” he said.
He noted that the rules governing the activities of the 10th House were put in place by the Third Republic lawmakers, adding that the current lawmakers now only amend the rules to meet current realities.
Also speaking, the National Organising Secretary of the group, Hajiya Amina lauded Agbedi for his contribution to the development of the Nigerian society.
“We are here this afternoon to honour our own, the man called Fred Agbedi. He is a man who represents the interest of his people, who even represents the interest of women and fought for the creation of the Ministry of Women Affairs. He is women-friendly,” she said.
Stressing the difficulty the Third Republic lawmakers are facing owing to unpaid entitlements, she said, “Many of us have died. When we came here, we were 593, but over 250 have gone. Most of the women are dead.
“Yesterday (Tuesday) was 31 years since we were sworn in as members of this parliament. Our grandchildren can now vote and be voted for but we still have problems.
“If Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe have been honoured and recognized, we were the foot soldiers. We were the delegates that voted them into power. What about us? Why can’t we be honoured and our standing salaries paid?
“Some of us are half dead. I am also half dead because my engine is knocked. I am just trying to make life easy for myself. We are calling on the government and the President to help us.”
While thanking his guests for the honour done to him, Agbedi called on the Federal Government to quickly pay up the salaries and allowances owed to the ex-lawmakers saying, “All their entitlements should be given to them. Even the President, Bola Tinubu will benefit from this.”
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