…says journalists need adequate security for 2023 election
…builds capacity of journalists on election coverage
…as Mass Comm don counsels media on inclusivity reportage
By Gabriel Ewepu, ABUJA
WITH less than eight weeks to the 2023 general elections, the International Press Centre, IPC, Tuesday, disclosed that about 250 journalists were attacked during coverage of the 2019 general election.
This was made this known by the Executive Director, IPC, Lanre Arogundade while fielding questions on the sidelines of a presentation of the outcomes of the IPC’s analysis of trends in reportage of the 2023 election issues by 15 print and online newspapers for the period October and November 2022.
Arogundade urged security agencies to ensure such attacks on the media do not happen before, during and after the 2023 general elections and lamented how journalists are now endangered species in the polity
He also said the media should be included with those INEC and security agencies would provide security for during the election, and urged security agencies not to attack journalists while carrying out their constitutional duties and allow them to move as far as they have their election coverage permit.
He added that “there is also nothing wrong in providing journalists with bullet-resistant vests.”
According to him, media monitoring forms part of IPC’s activities under a European Union, EU, funded project, ‘Strengthening the media for fair, accurate, ethical, and inclusive coverage of the electoral processes and elections in Nigeria’.
The newspapers monitored were: The Guardian, The Punch, Daily Sun, Vanguard, ThisDay, Nigerian Tribune, The Nation, Leadership, Daily Trust, and Daily Independent. The Five online media were: The Cable, the Premium Times, Eagle Online, RealNews and the Authority.
His said: “One thing is that as journalists, we must be ethical, professional and another thing is for a conducive environment to be provided for us. And that’s why I talked about the need for political parties and government to come together and ensure that we are protected as safety matters.
“Though, no journalist was killed on election day at 2019 but 250 were molested across the country including some of them who were accredited, particularly by overzealous law enforcement agencies.
“Among the 250 were those who were also attacked while covering campaign activities. You will recall that when a governorship campaign was being launched in Lagos by one of the political parties, and there was violence involving some party thugs, three of our colleagues in Lagos were shot, while some of them were hit by stray bullets.
“So we are using this occasion to draw the attention of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, governments, security agencies and their own political parties to their own responsibilities if they want us to cover these elections effectively.
“For example, it will be wrong for any political party or candidates to deny any one of us access to their public event because the Nigerian media code of election coverage says they should give us free access and where some believe that we’re not doing what is right, they can make use of the regulatory mechanisms to lodge their complaints, but not go after individual journalists who are on the field.
“As we move towards the 2023 general elections, we’re also going to be monitoring the situation of journalists. And we’re also calling on journalists to report any threats or attacks.
“So beyond elections, it is worrisome that not less than nine journalists have been killed and there have been no investigation talk less of prosecution of the killers as we speak. And of course, we knew that of the Vanguard reporter. So it is a reality that journalists in Nigeria are facing a lot of threats.”
On providing journalists bullet-proof vests he said, “I don’t know whether that would be a violation of the police act and I don’t know if it is allowed but you see we need to have this conversation with them. Bulletproof, why not, especially for cameramen?
“If the police can give us bulletproof once we are accredited, we will be happy about that. But beyond that what we are saying is that on election day, know that your own life matter.
“As journalists, we have some rights which we don’t exercise. If you are being asked to go and cover the election in an area where there’s likely to be an outbreak of violence, it is your right to ask for protection.”
Also speaking was professor Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Prof Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, while presenting the report, scored media reporting of the 2023 electoral process satisfactory, however, tasked the media on inclusivity reportage.
Ogwezzy-Ndisika also said media should also focus on the activities of vulnerable groups in society and other political parties other than the ‘big four’.
“The report presents state of the art on media reportage of elections in Nigeria. It also helps us to have practical direction on what we should do as journalists so that we can deepen democracy knowing that the media is a critical institution in elections.
“So it is very important that we do a review of what we have done and the strength of our work, where the gaps are so that we can fill them in order to make an impact in the electoral process come February this year.
“So I think that it’s it’s kind of self-evaluation that we have done.”
According to her, inclusivity in media reportage was poor as most media organisations basically focused on a particular set of newsmakers which most times does not make the readers interested in that particular report.
“Not only that, it has become more urban-centric, so we should delve a little more into the sub-national level and I think that will improve our work. We also found out that about three or four parties are having visibility in the media, so what happens to the other political parties?
“These are questions we should ask ourselves, hence the need to be deliberate. We also looked at the issue of framing.
“How we frame our reports and stories, you know, perhaps the way we frame them based on the definition of who makes the news may also be accountable.
“So we should have a rethink of the angle, perspective that we’re going to bring into our stories.
“From the report, we found that we gave little voice to women, people with disabilities, youth and people in hard-to-reach areas.
“We should make our stories multimedia so we can speak to the non-literates people in the rural areas. So essentially we need to be deliberate about inclusivity in our reportage”, she said.
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