Ahead of the 2019 general election, the International Press Centre (IPC) held a workshop for journalists on the best media practices in convering the electoral process.
The two-day workshop on October 17 and 18 at Tahir Guest Palace Hotel, Kano was organised by IPC in collaboration with EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) to build a professional media as catalysts of democratic accountability, credible elections and good governance.
According to IPC, over 500 persons expressed interest to participate in this workshop but only 40 from different media organisations across the North of Nigeria were selected on merit.
The workshop targeted sharpening skills of participants in the professional and ethical reportage of democratic processes and elections as well as building the capacity of journalists to commit to professional, conflict-sensitive, citizen-focused, gender-focused as well as digital reporting of the 2019 elections.
In his speech read by Stella Nwofia, the programme manager, the Director of IPC, Lanre Arogundade, welcomed participants and launched the revised edition of the Nigeria Media Code of Election Coverage.
He thanked media partners who contributed to the development of the code, the International Press Institute (IPI) for providing the platform for the launch of the code and the European Union for supporting the production and dissemination.
Six papers were presented; four on the first day and two on the second day, by different speakers on critical aspects of covering and reporting the electoral process.
Umar Pate from the Bayero University Kano presented two papers titled, Conflict Sensitiveness and Avoiding Hate Speech As Imperatives in Reporting Elections Ahead of 2019; and Reporting Post-election: Paying Attention to the Issue of Democratic Accountability.
In the first paper, he said because the political season is usually intense, sensitive reports should be treated with caution or avoided.
In the other paper, Mr Pate stressed the need to place national interest, which connotes economic safety, absence of fear, threats or any other form of attack on the dignity, freedom and safety of Nigeria and Nigerians, first.
Martins Oloja, an editorial board member of Guardian Newspaper, presented a paper titled, Legal and Regulatory Frameworks for Reporting Elections: The Pitfalls to Avoid .
In the paper, Mr Oloja emphasised the need for journalists to be abreast of the laws guiding their profession and the constitution of the country which regulates the operation of journalists; pointing out some pitfalls to be taken note of or avoided.
“While it is persuasive that good journalism can bring about change in laws, journalists should also note that the law affect how well they can function.
“Therefore, legal education has become necessary even in global context as politically-exposed leaders are becoming more intolerant of press freedom.”
Mr Oloja in his second paper titled “According Ethics and Professionalism Deserved Priority in Reporting Elections in Nigeria”, argued that professional integrity and journalism ethics are stronger than local laws.
According to him, facts may not necessarily be truth, so in doing a story the two terms should be treated individually and with care.
He spoke extensively on professional integrity, journalism ethics and standards with emphasis on primary themes common to most codes of journalistic standards as well as journalism and international laws.
The fourth presentation was by Moji Makanjuola, the Executive Director, International Society of Media in Public Health and Development. Her paper was titled Factoring Development, Social Welfare and Public Interest Issues into Reporting Elections in Nigeria.
In the paper, Mrs Makanjuola spoke on public interest with emphasis on objective of reporting election, audience, reporting election results and establishing personal contacts.
The paper focused on social development issues as they relate to election campaign promises ,issues on grassroots politics, conflicts and violence, etc.
In her second paper on, Promoting Gender and Women Issues in Election Reporting Ahead 2019, Mrs Makanjuola lamented the dismal percentage of women in elective and legislative office and the need to change that.
While advocating for a paradigm shift, she called on the media to support the institutionalisation of the culture of gender mainstreaming and gender equality by implementing gender-sensitive programmes, and monitoring of gender-mainstreaming progress.
Some of the participants later expressed joy to be part of the training as they all said they learnt a lot.
John Femi of Daily Newstimes said “The training was quite interactive, educative and thought provoking.”.
Similarly, Gwamkat Lisa of FRCN, Plateau, said “it was knowledge filled and has broadened my horizon on what to do and how to go about it particularly in the 2019 general election.”
Joseph Olaoluwa of Nigerian Standard said he was leaving the training challenged and better.
“The training has been truly rewarding. I was challenged and I am leaving here a better journalist equipped with skills to cover the 2019 election,” he said.