By Austin Ejenike
THE Nigerian media is often blamed for heating up the polity when things go wrong. But this was not the case on Monday, July 8, when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, berthed in Lagos, along with its partners to review the conduct of the 2019 general elections with the media. The partners included the European Center for Electoral Support, ECES, and International Foundation For Electoral System, IFES.
The meeting focused on issues relating to the conduct of the elections ranging from the procedure for the accreditation of media organizations and reporters; to access to credible information from INEC and its officials before and on the election day.
Speakers took time to commend the role played by the media in covering and informing the public about the electoral processes. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman, in an opening address at the meeting said “the 2019 general elections were the most extensively covered and reported story this year”.
While appreciating the role played by the media in the elections, Yakubu said: “They covered all the activities of the 2019 general elections effectively, from the continuous voters registration exercise to the conduct of the primaries through the buildup to the general elections.”
According to him, through the goodwill we enjoyed from the media, the 2019 general elections were the most extensively covered story this year even though we are in the middle of the year. I am sure there will be no other events that will be so extensively covered in 2019 like the general elections.
Similarly, Sam Olumekun, INEC resident electoral commissioner, Lagos, and Festus Okoye, Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, INEC, Muhammed Lecky, Chairman, Planning, Monitoring and Strategy Committee, PMSC, who is also INEC national commissioner, echoed similar feelings
Olumekun, while welcoming the audience to the review meeting, stated that it was an interface with the media largely to evaluate the commission’s performance in the last general elections
On his part, Okoye said the commission “is aware of the reach of the media in communicating policies and programmes of different commissions, agencies, parastatals and organs of government.
“INEC does not have a printing press or a radio station, but relies on the goodwill generosity and patriotism of the media in getting its programmes and policies across to the Nigerian people.”
“While the information gets to the public, the quality, content, slant and usefulness of the information is also critical, it shapes their perception of such policies and programmes and processes.
“The Commission knows and believes that line editors and editors are fundamental to the type, content and slant of the stories and information that are communicated to the public and will continue to engage the media for a better understanding of its policies, and programmes,” he said.
He said that INEC had carried out and was still carrying out in-house review of the 2019 general elections and urged the media, civil social groups and organizations, the political parties, the security agencies and all the stakeholders in the electoral process to do the same.
However, he also said that “as line editors, editors and senior staff of your media organizations, you are aware that the commission flagged a few problematic constitutional and electoral issues that the Nigerian people should pay attention to in shaping and reshaping the electoral process. The media has been recognized as a cornerstone of democracy, providing platforms for political discourse, especially during elections,” Lecky said.
He added that a balanced media, especially print and broadcast are often assumed to foster transparency, provide space for the expression of freedom, and alternative dissenting creation and veritable pathway for voters education and enlightenment.
“In our experience, did the media truly give equitable access to the parties and candidates? What are the measures of equity in access, and what is the
score from the 2019 elections. I think there were stories of regulatory sanctions taken, suggesting lack of equitable and unbiased reportage.”
At the review meeting, different organizations, including the European Center for Electoral Support, ECES, IFES, Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, delivered goodwill messages.
Some of the speeches pointed out the challenges journalists faced in doing their job. Monica Frassoni, president of the ECES, in her short speech, said her organization for the last two years and hopefully the next three has been supporting INEC in many varied aspects of its work, including the media.
“We are absolutely convinced on the need to support and to recognize the role of the media, above all the pressure that they faced from the prevalence of fake news, undermining good journalism, to physical threats, dangers and barriers journalists face in their day to day work as we all saw all too clearly during the elections.
“When journalists are prevented from reporting the facts and speaking the truth, others with no qualifications, experience or judgment are ready to fill the vacuum for a public hungry for content on social media and unquestioning of what they read or watch. I would like to say that this is by no means a Nigerian issue. This is a global and growing threat. And as such we have to deal with it.
“We are particularly proud that ECES held “fake news” workshop, designed to help INEC staff across the headquarter and states recognize, flag up and deal with fake news, disinformation and misinformation and that in a few weeks, we will help the commission set up a media monitoring unit, which will among other tasks, help it identify, track and counter fake news,” Frassoni said.
She said that ECES has many other initiatives in the pipeline aimed at supporting INEC’s strong relationship with the media, which is based on mutual respect and a shared interest to get clear, fact-based messages out to the public so that people can exercise their rights.
“We owe it to the media to recognize the sacrifices they make in what ought to be a simple pursuit of the facts. And we recognize the value of their work as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria, even as such pillars are crumbling in many parts of the world,” she said.
She expressed the wish that the open exchanges at the INEC Review meeting with media leaders, will help to reinforce that position while wishing them successful discussions.
– July 16, 2019 @ 17:36 GMT |