The United States has commended the Nigerian media’s coverage of the just concluded general elections saying they played a constructive role in ensuring successful and largely peaceful process.
The US Consul-General, Jeffrey Hawkins, on Tuesday said that 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,” Mr. Hawkins said at an event to mark the 2015 World Press Freedom Day organized by the US Consulate in Lagos.
“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. 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.
“You and your peers deserve kudos for a job well done. And I look forward to hearing your self-assessment of your performance.”
Several journalists were assaulted across the country by both political thugs and security agents during the election.
Mr. Hawkins condemned the violent attacks 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,” said Mr. Hawkins.
“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 fulfill the roles of watchdog, gatekeeper and agenda-setter.”
Mr. Hawkins said that 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 organized media training workshops in cities across the country including Port Harcourt, Lagos, Ekiti, Abeokuta, Osogbo, Kaduna, and Abuja,” said Mr. Hawkins.
“We also conducted training for the INEC press officers months before the elections to prepare them to be responsive to the news media in order 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.”