COMMUNIQUÉ OF THE TWO-DAY WORKSHOP ON EFFECTIVE COVERAGE AND REPORTAGE OF 2015 GENERAL ELECTIONS, ORGANIZED BY THE NIGERIAN PRESS COUNCIL WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE FOR DEVELOPMENT PROJECT II OF UNDP AND OTHER DONOR AGENCIES – EUROPEAN UNION, UKaid, CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY, KOREA INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION AGENCY, HELD AT THE ASAA PYRAMID HOTEL, KADUNA, KADUNA STATE, FROM MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15 TO TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2014.
The Nigerian Press Council, with the support of the Democratic Governance for Development Project II of the UNDP and other donor agencies such as the European Union, Ukaid, Canadian International Development Agency, and the Korea International Agency, organized the third in its series of workshops for journalists in the six geopolitical zones of the country with the broad objective of training journalists in the best practices for election reporting.
The two-day capacity building with the theme, Ethical Conduct and Effective Coverage of 2015 General Elections by the Media, was organised for journalists in the North West zone states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara, and was held at the ASAA Pyramid Hotel in Kaduna from September 15-16, 2014.
The workshop was declared open by the Hon. Commissioner for Information, Kaduna State, Hon. Ben Bako, who in his remarks stated that the dynamic spirit of the Nigerian Press has been an invaluable asset to the strengthening of democratic culture in the country, particularly in regard to the coverage of electoral processes. He urged the media to complement and help drive the multi-process democratic development as the 2015 General Elections approaches.
The objectives of the workshop, among others, was to sensitize journalists on ethical principles guiding election reporting and coverage; further strengthen the capacity of journalists in their ability to effectively monitor and report elections and ensure adherence to professionalism as a deliberate means of entrenching democratic principles and good governance in the country.
Mrs. Esther Bago, the representative of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC of Kaduna, Alhaji Halilu Aliyu Tambuwal, in the keynote address, stated that for INEC to achieve effective mobilization, it will engage media organisations in partnership. She added that a Committee (an Inter-Agency Advisory Committee on Voter Education and Publicity (SICVEP) had been inaugurated nationwide by the Commission to that effect.
Participants observed that:
(i) Materialism, sycophancy, nepotism, use of hate words, sensationalism, character assassination are some of the abuses of professional ethics in political reporting
(ii) The abuse and misuse of opinion polls without use of sound research methodologies is a hindrance to accurate electoral reportage.
(iii) Provocative comments can overheat the polity and undermine the effort to achieve a peaceful and credible electoral process.
The workshop, after extensive deliberation, resolved as follows:
(i) Stressed the need for the media to exercise utmost professionalism in the gathering of news in order not to compromise the tenets of truth, accuracy, balance and fairness in reporting electoral processes;
(ii) Underscored the importance of media professionals to be knowledgeable of the Constitution, electoral laws and other election regulations;
(iii) Enjoined journalists to exercise restraint in the choice of words in reportage to avoid overheating the polity or inflaming passion;
(iv) Called for the encouragement and sustenance of research based voter education programmes by the media for effective citizens participation on the electoral processes;
(v) Urged the media to refrain from speculative election results in order not to jeopardise the final election outcome;
(vi) Emphasised the imperative of giving equal opportunities to all stakeholders in the elections to avoid impartiality;
(vii) Urged media correspondents to ensure that stories filed for publishing are not oriented towards personality, party or ethnic positions as opposed to issue oriented news.
(viii) Urged journalists, as partners in the decision-making process, to establish a cohesive partnership with INEC to ensure appropriate election coverage and mutual dissemination of information that would aid the process rather than denigrate it.
(ix) Stressed the need for media correspondents to avoid using any manipulative techniques that would distort a story to the advantage or disadvantage of any election contender. This includes avoiding any politically motivated authorship, deceptive camera angles or other unprofessional acts designed to put any person or policy in a negative light.
(x) Press conferences and statements of political interest covered by correspondents should be subject to a right of reply from political parties or persons who are implicated or negatively portrayed in them.
(xi) Any candidate or political party which has been defamed or has suffered legal injury should be entitled to a correction or reply, depending on the degree of injury.
(xii) Implored media professionals to be mindful of their safety and security while operating in hostile environments;
(xiii) Enjoined media platforms such as the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) and regulatory agencies such as National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and Nigerian Press Council (NPC), to work together for the protection and defence of the rights of media professionals in the discharge of their lawful duties.
The workshop was attended by 96 participants comprising experts in the profession, veterans in the industry and journalists from the North West zone states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara.
Tamani Yusuf Nnamdi Njemanze
Chairman of the Workshop Ag. Executive Secretary
Nigerian Press council
Mallam Yusuf Idris
Chairman, Kaduna State NUJ Chapter