Media urged to be sensitive on electoral reporting

•Monday, 11 August 2014 00:00

•Written by Kunle Ogedengbe

IN line with its mandate, the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) organised the second in a series of Towards Impactful Election Reporting workshop in conjunction with Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME), promoters of Nigeria’s longest running media awards programme, at the Kakanfo Inn and Conference Centre, Ibadan.

Participants from print, broadcast and online media, 30 in all, at the two-day workshop were led by seasoned professionals including Dr. Bisi Olawunmi of the Department of Mass Communication, Bowen University, Mr. Jimi Disu, a veteran journalist and on-air-personality and Mr. Tam Fiofori, a veteran of photojournalist, documentarist and film producer.

 In his welcome address, the Acting Executive Secretary of Nigerian Press Council, Mr. Nnamdi Njemanze, enjoined participants to avail themselves of the opportunities the workshop created in ensuring better electoral reports in the media and for the benefit of the country at large. He noted that the second edition of the workshop came on the heels on the success of the first edition held in Akure last June, and observed that the council would leave no stone unturned in contributing its quota to a better Nigerian society through the media.

Olawunmi spoke on the topic, ‘Anatomy of an Election: Did the Press Goof on Ekiti?’; Disu spoke on ‘Beyond Osun: The Media and Election Reporting’ while Mr. Fiofori’s paper was entitled ‘Visual Assault: How the Media Encourage Electoral Violence’.

In his submission, Olawunmi said the failure of reporting in Ekiti governorship election was qualified considering that reporters did not have control over the events in Ekiti. He, however, underscored the need for training and re-training of journalists.

On his part, Disu said beyond Osun State election, the media should guide the public in understanding the issues, be unbiased, fair and emphasise the importance of voting for a better candidate.

To Fiofori, the media should approach politicians with some measure of cynicism and continually remind them of their sworn duties and responsibilities to the people.

Participants stated that the media should do more to interrogate the present crop of politicians and contain the seeming tolerance of undemocratic practices and behaviour.

It was also agreed that funding of journalists by campaign teams of politicians posed a serious threat to the integrity of news and should be discouraged by media owners. Participants also observed that the media sometimes showed a lack of sensitivity in its portrayal of scenes of violence. It was, therefore, encouraged to show greater sensitivity, noting that undue reportage of violent images could lead to voter apathy and should be discouraged. Journalists were advised to be issue-focused in their reportage.

To enrich the electoral process, participants recommended that the media should always carry out in-depth profiling of all candidates, without writing off some of them at the outset.

It was noted, “Journalists should set their own agenda by not limiting themselves to coverage of staged events but rather should raise critical issues that could engender constructive discussions and debate; journalists should strive to maintain some level of integrity and professionalism in spite of the factor of media ownership influence; publishers, management, editors and reporters should be sensitized on the need to give good access to all electoral candidates in terms of editorial contents, and publishers and media owners should avoid undue interference in editorial matters to promote professionalism for media credibility.”

It also recommended that journalists should be skeptical of surveys conducted by vested interests and ensure that those used satisfy strict scientific parameters and, where possible, carry out their own independent surveys both for personal advancement and organisational integrity.

Workshop participants also wanted Journalists and photojournalists to nurture and exude the 3Cs: competence, confidence and conscience in carrying out journalistic duties and resist engaging in self-development. It was also recommended that tertiary institutions should introduce programmes in photography to Higher National Diploma (HND) or first degree level while journalists should pay greater attention to the hazards of their job and be more discerning in carrying out their duty in volatile areas.

Media managers were enjoined to pay greater premium on the safety of journalists by providing appropriate cover for them.