UNDP, Online Publishers Dialogue on Peaceful Elections

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Online publishers peaceful election dialogue

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The United Nations Development Programme and its partners have held a one day dialogue with online publishers on peaceful elections

AHEAD of the 2015 general elections, the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, on Tuesday, February 10, organised a day dialogue on peaceful elections for members of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers in Abuja. Sponsored by Democratic Governance for Development Project, European Union, UKaid, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development, Canada and UNDP, the dialogue which was very interactive was moderated by Toyin Gabriel, UNDP’s media expert. Participants which were more than 15 discussed critical issues that are germane to the conduct of peaceful elections in the country.

Delivering the first lecture on: “Agenda setting: Citizen Engagement and Contributions of Online Media to Peaceful Elections,” Dapo Olorunyomi, the editor-in-chief, Premium Times, said about 73.5 million Nigerians are now actively engaged on the internet, making the country eighth on the global engagement scale. Olorunyomi said online is the future of journalism, but hastened to add that the good news about the huge number of internet users comes with its own ethical challenges.

He said: “The first question to be resolved is what ethics will guide our practice in an age where the traditional consumer of journalism has herself become a producer of journalism via newsletters, blogs and other aggregation strategies and is even able to draw significant eyeballs far beyond the traditional media?

Other questions confronting online media, according to him, is “What degree of responsibility or norms will be in demand from a platform of delivery that is based on social media and algorithms? What happens to stories advancing community, democracy, accountability and which challenge citizens toward informed choices but find no economic support? “With the advent of the citizen journalists as news gatherers, how do we take care of critical concerns about sourcing, authenticity and, above all, fairness? What happens to verification in the wake of the now relaxed editing standards that come with digital first via social media and twitter in particular?”

Olorunyomi, however, proffered the way forward, suggesting the need to organise the community of online media around platform specific issues as currently happening in many countries. He cited the example of the Online News Association in the United States of America. He also spoke on the need to formulate strict and strong professional, ethical and accountability principles as well as the need to provide support through trainings and professional resources.

Olorunyomi said: “In promoting the credibility of journalism also, the value of transparency has also acquired a new status calling on us to show how reporting was done and why people must believe it. It should articulate journalistic approach and acknowledge mistakes and errors in a timely manner.”

Presenting a paper on hate speech, Y. Z. Yau, emphasized that hate speech poses a threat to a peaceful coexistence of the groups the society, urging online publishers to be guided by the overall national interest when reporting stories laden with hate or dangerous speeches.

Yau said that media practitioners should always take on those who make hate speeches so that they can be called to order.

Also, Stella Jibrin from the Nigerian Press Council said the body has been monitoring and analysing on a daily basis the coverage of the 2015 elections in newspapers, focusing on news stories, articles, opinions and photographs.

Detailing its preparedness for the conduct of the 2015 elections, Nick Dazang, deputy director of Publicity at the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, headquarters in Abuja, also talked about the Citizen Contact Centre which has dedicated staff, who help INEC to get the feelings of the people and in addressing the identified challenges.

The dialogue provide the opportunity not only for online publishers make their own contributions but they also to improved their knowledge on all the issues discussed which would  enable them to be better prepared to cover the 2015 forthcoming general elections.

— Feb. 23, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT

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