Director of the International Press Centre (IPC), Mr. Lanre Arogundade has enjoined journalists to be security conscious and embrace professionalism as they cover the 2019 general elections.
Arogundade gave the advice at a media round-table and presentation of report of monitoring of print and online newspapers’ reporting of the 2019 electoral process.
“My appeal is that we must know that as much as we cover the politicians, our main duty is the people and we must mind the language we use in writing our reports,” he said.
Reminding the participants what happened recently at the flag off of the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaigns in Lagos, Arogundade said, “A couple of weeks ago, we knew what happened at the APC rally in Lagos where some of our colleagues had gunshots injuries.
“The truth is that there are parts of this country on the basis of campaigns that you can project have a strong likelihood of violence,” he said.
Listing some of the flashpoints, Arogundade said journalists must be careful in Ogun, Lagos, Rivers, Kano, Benue States and the north east.
According to him, safety goes into many things. “The kind of clothes and shoes you wear are important. It is not time to be fashionable. It must be a shoe or canvas with which you can run where needed.”
Arogundade also advised journalists to check their health status before covering elections. “You must check your health status. If you are going to cover election in some of these places I mentioned, you must go to your doctor to check your blood pressure and if you see it is high you have to request another person is sent there. You must use your local knowledge and work closely with the security agents and ensure you wear relevant accreditation tags conspicuously,” he counseled.
“We want you to report alive, we don’t pray for you to be part of the election report. Ensure your management gives you appropriate tools to ensure you are safe. We have Google maps, make sure your immediate boss knows where you are per time,” he added.
Arogundade gave few reasons for carrying out the monitoring exercise of print and online newspapers reporting the 2019 electoral process between September and December 2018.
According to him, the exercise was necessary for the media to assess how it was doing in the discharge of its duties to the public.
He also stated that since the international organisations also monitor the Nigerian media, every account of happenings should not come from international organisations.
Thirdly he said IPC monitored the media because the public is interested in how well the media is doing.
The fourth reason Arogundade gave was that the outcome of the engagement is needed. “It is a tool of engagement and capacity building to achieve a credible election.
Director, International Coorperation, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Abuja, Mrs. Elizabeth Egharevba appreciated the European Union for sponsoring the laudable project.
Egharevba who was represented by the Project Officer, EU-SDGN, Ministry of Budget and Planning, Abuja, Mr. Nwanze Afam said, “I feel honoured to be here and I am particularly happy the project is being presented to the public at the eve of the 2019 election.”
Afam appreciated the EU for the support for the government of Nigeria in improving and strengthening democracy in Nigeria.
“The media has long been recognised as a pillar of discovery and life blood of electoral process and must be commended,” he applauded.
Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the NUJ, Dr. Qasim Akinreti at the event also appreciated the IPC for the project. Appealing to the journalists, Akinreti said, “International organisations monitoring the election would be in Lagos, Katsina and Adamawa. I want you colleagues to make us proud, don’t be partisan and be careful of the various flashpoints.
“Report the elections and we don’t want you to be reported on the other way round. It is not our making that politicians are fighting themselves but we must report them, so be careful. Violence has been predicted in some areas, we must be professional and careful,” he warned.
Reviewer of the publication, Executive Director, Centre for Free Speech, Lagos, Mr. Richard Akinnola enjoined journalists not to allow themselves to be used by politicians.
“You must not bring yourselves so low for the politicians to use you like thugs,” he advised.
In his review, Akinnola noticed gender imbalance in some of the stories monitored.
“There is gender imbalance in the media reportage which we have noticed in this report. Apart from Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, I am not aware of any female presidential candidate,” he noted.
“The visibility given the female aspirants by the media has been so low compared to the men, however, I must commend the work, it is fantastic.
“One notable feature about the report is the coverage of the big parties at the detriment of the small parties that got insignificant percentages of coverage. We focus too much on the big parties, the small parties have no financial capacity to influence things, so they get smaller influence and scanty mention. The media should address this trend,” Akinnola advised.