Jeffrey Hawkins, consul general, United States Consulate in Nigeria praises Nigerian media for their effective coverage and voter education during the just ended political campaigns and general elections in the country
| By Anayo Ezugwu | May 18, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE United States of America Consulate in Nigeria is happy with the way the media reported the political campaigns in the country and educated voters before the general elections in the country. According to the Consulate, the media played a constructive role in ensuring successful and violence free elections across the country.
Jeffrey Hawkins, consul general, at a programme organised to commemorate of the 2015 World Press Freedom Day, in Lagos, said Nigeria’s electoral success was reminiscent of the remarkable result it produced to halt the spread of the dreadful Ebola Virus Disease.
“The world has indeed watched Nigerian successes and for me experiencing the historic elections first hand has been a highlight of my career as a diplomat. I would like to commend the efforts of the news media in offering a platform for the expression and amplification of ideas by political candidates during the campaign season,” he said. The news media, like their peers in other parts of the world, shoulder a heavy responsibility to inform and educate the electorate in some cases placing themselves in harm’s way. By providing to the Nigerian electorate timely, factual, analytical, and objective information to help them understand the issues and where the candidates stand, the news media lived-up to a universal professional standard and contributed immensely to a healthy and functioning democracy in Nigeria, he said, adding: “You and your peers deserve kudos for a job well done. And I look forward to hearing your self-assessment of your performance,” he said.
Hawkins condemned the violent attacks on several journalists that were assaulted across the country by both political thugs and security agents during the election and urged the media not to relent in their role as the watchdog. “There is no place for violence in a democracy. All of us need to stand together to condemn such attacks and intimidation against journalists. We all know that a free press is essential to a healthy democracy. Not only during elections but every day, every week, every month, and every year the news media must remain focused and engaged. The news media can be a powerful force for change. It can effectively fulfil the roles of watchdog, gatekeeper and agenda-setter.”
According to Hawkins, the US Mission supported the 2015 elections by facilitating more than 28 election outreach events initiated by the Embassy in Abuja and the Consulate in Lagos.
“Our Public Affairs Section organised media training workshops in cities across the country including Port Harcourt, Lagos, Ekiti, Abeokuta, Osogbo, Kaduna, and Abuja. We also conducted training for the INEC press officers’ months before the elections to prepare them to be responsive to the news media to inform the general public about voter education, registration and polling information. We invited prominent Americans, members of your profession, to Lagos to share their expertise, including professors Lucinda Fleeson of the University of Maryland; Gary Kebbel of the University of Nebraska; former CNN Middle East Bureau chief, Derwin Johnson, and Edwin Cue. A handful of online and video conferences were also facilitated between senior American media practitioners and their Nigerian counterparts.”
Also at the forum, Femi Adesina, president, Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, who spoke on the “Influence of Media Owners on Fair and Balanced Reporting and Commentaries in 2015 Election Coverage” said media owners in Nigeria hinder creditable reportage. According to him, people set-up media houses for different reasons and they always work toward accomplishing the motive of setting-up the media house.
Adesina said media owners constitute boundaries which reporters and editors must not cross. He noted that there is no freedom without boundary and the owners determine the boundary in most cases. He pointed out that although there were several hate speeches and advertorials, but the owners did nothing to avert. “One major issue was hate speeches, which could not have been if the media owners did not endorse them. At a stage the media became polarised, the owners influence were much, as they set rules on how far journalists can go. Only a few journalists can go against the position of their publishers,” he said.
There were also a team of panelists, which included Adesina, Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, Head, department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, UNILAG; Emmanuel Ogala, head, Digital Strategy, Premium Times; Emovwo Biakolo, founding dean, School of Media and Communication, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos; Lanre Arogundade, director, International Press Centre; and Chamberlain Usoh, producer and host, Channels Television.