Don urges journalists to be professional in coverage of 2023 polls

Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage

By Nwamaka Chigbo

PROF. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, has urged journalists to be professional in the coverage of the 2023 electoral processes.

Speaking at the stakeholders’ roundtable on media monitoring report on the coverage of 2023 electoral process and public presentation of the revised edition of Nigeria media code of election, organized by the International Press Centre in Lagos, Prof. Ogwezzy-Ndisika, who was also the guest lecturer and lead speaker, stressed the need for balanced coverage of events for all parties/persons concerned.

According to her, efforts should be made to give prominence to political and electoral issues covered without ignoring the issues of conflict, sensitivity and inclusiveness.

She urged journalists to adopt a multifaceted media approach for all-inclusive reportage in their sources of news to reflect views of both genders – the male politicians and their female counterparts, the youth, and persons with disabilities, as both the print media and online media have fallen short of some of these specifics.

On the review of the IPC’s media monitoring activity of 15 print and online media reporting of the 2023 electoral process, covering the period of October and November 2022 report, she stated that since the discourse was centred on electoral process/election coverage, proper documentation and reportage of the activities of the Election Management Body, INEC and the coverage of specific topics on electoral reforms, civic/voter education, PVC collection, Election security, election education, electoral accountability amongst other activities of INEC.

On proper dissemination of information on its activities, she said: “While it is commendable that INEC’s website has lots of relevant information on the 2023 electoral process, it was observed that that the INEC website was not as interactive as it should be. For example, there was no active Chatbox and no live streaming plug – that connects, links, or streams social media live post or discussions.”

She suggested that there should be more editorial input in the posts like captioning and tagging of photographs news items.

While enjoining the print and online media to strive to comply with the frameworks governing media coverage of elections, including the Electoral ACT, 2022 and Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage 2022, she advised the print and online media to consciously include and engage women, female politicians and under-represented groups as voices/sources in election reporting, to equally give prominence to their issues by making them headline stories, regularly featured on the front pages;

She harped on the need for print and online newspapers not making the headlines and front pages the exclusive preserve of just two political parties, but should strive to give the other parties and candidates same opportunity in line with the requirements of equal or equitable access in the Electoral Act 2022 and the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage (revised edition 2022).

The lecturer also urged the print and online newspapers to avoid being used or being seen as instruments of settling political and personal scores by political gladiators by refraining from using abusive words by candidates against their opponents in their reports, desisting from sensational, inciting and misleading headlines.

According to her, the print and online newspapers should accord priority to issues of public interest in their electoral reports and adhere strictly to the facts of electoral issues in line with the professional and ethical requirements of factual accuracy and should equally avoid falling into the trap of disinformation and misinformation by doing real time fact-checking of claims by politicians and exercising the discipline of verification.

On the part of INEC, Prof. Ogwezzy–Ndisika suggested that the menus on the INEC website should be regularly updated so that outdated information like news items and policies pertaining to previous elections, which are irrelevant or have been overtaken by the provisions of the new electoral Act are expunged, except in such cases where such are stored in sections clearly identified as archival materials.       

She added that INEC news menu @ should be populated with more real-time news items as well as step up its engagement with the electorates in the area of information dissemination, especially on its twitter handles.

Giving the highlights of the report, Prof. Ogwezzy–Ndisika said that 14 print and online newspapers were sampled and monitored. They included 10 newspapers – Punch, The Guardian, Daily Sun, Vanguard, ThisDay, Nigerian Tribune, The Nation, Leadership, Daily Trust, and Daily Independent and four online publications –   The Cable, the Premium Times, Eagle Online, and Realnews Magazine Online.Also monitored were the News Portal (website) and the twitter handle of Nigeria’s election management body, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

She explained that post-election issues, campaigns by candidates/political parties, issues of the elections/voting, post-election/democratic accountability issues as well as fact-checking and documentation of campaign promises were critically examined between October and November 2022 (which as a matter of fact was a part of an eighteen-month arduous task of media monitoring activity by the IPC monitoring team) on the trend of the electoral/democratic governance process.

Prof. Ogwezzy–Ndisika announced that Realnews scored the highest points among the Online Media monitored and of that all the 804 editorial items found relevant in the four online newspapers monitored, Realnews came tops with a reportage score of 236.

Earlier in his welcome address, Lanre Arogundade, executive director of the IPC, stressed the need for media practitioners to consciously align their practice of media coverage in conformity with international standards and declarations of best practices at all times with special regards to election coverage reporting from a balanced view of reportage that covers all the players and the political activities in the electoral process without bias, fear or favour, while being professional and sensitive to reports that may engender societal misinformation and conflicts.

He said that the objective of the round table was geared at broadening and enlightening the stakeholders, mainly the media practitioners across the broad spectrum of information dissemination field (both the Print Media and Online) that obtains now in Nigeria and by rote news surfers and bloggers, who it is hoped would pick up the threads from the professional agencies.

He expressed the hope that those trained and galvanized by the roundtable will bring to bear on their reportage, tenets of good, standard practices, well balanced reportage as envisioned by the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage, Revised Edition 2022 in line with best International standard and best practices.

The stakeholders’ round table also featured the presentation of the Revised 2022 Edition of the Nigerian Media Code of election coverage.

Some eminent personalities from notable print and Online media organizations and the academia attended the interactive session. They included Chido Onumah, vice president, North Central, Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria, ACSPN, Iyobosa Uwuagiren, general secretary, Nigerian Guild of Editors and Nwamaka Chigbo, an Abuja-based lawyer and company secretary of Realnews, who gave additional perspectives to the subject matter on hand: “review of  media monitoring  report on coverage of the 2023 electoral process.”

The event was organised by the IPC in collaboration with the EU-Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria, EU-SOGN II,