…Coverage rate shows 51% for Executive, 78% for men, 85% for urban areas
..reiterates end to fake news via strict discipline
…shocked at absence of staff in-house training, no budget for election duty or equipment
A one-day Media engagement and training by the Institute for Media and Society(IMS) in conjunction with the International Press Centre(IPC) implementing partners of Component 4, Support to Media under the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria(EU-SDGN) Project in Awka for the coming November 6,2021 Governorship election in Anambra state has revealed disturbing facts in news coverage and office environment realities in the state.
The event which was attended by more than fifty(50) media stakeholders spanning the print, online and broadcast media, as well as the academia from Anambra and neighboring states under the theme -“Towards Professional and Inclusive Reporting of the 2021 Anambra State Governorship Election” during the questionnaire response analysis/interactive session discovered that a near absence of in-house training for practitioners.
Media establishments in the state were discovered to downplay or totally ignore the welfare of workers especially during special periods like election coverage, no attention is paid to enhancement of working budgets, tools and in-house training particularly for field officers, etc.
The session which was moderated by one of the resource persons -Dr Akin Arogundade, Executive Director at the IMS, discovered that more media coverage dwelt on Politics than any other sector; 78% on the menfolk; 51% on the Executive and 42% on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the midst of eighteen registered political parties, while the main opposition party -the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) gets 34% mention.
Incidentally, a sad fact shows that 85% coverage attention was focused on the urban areas, whereas citizens predominantly live in rural areas.
Generally, in the coming November 6,2021 governorship poll, three major parties -APC, PDP and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) seen as the “heavyweights” receive an overwhelming media coverage whereas the “featherweights” including the Labour Party, The Accord and the Zenith Labour bring the rear.
On the issue of fake news which was described as sharing or dissemination of deliberate distorted, fabricated, false, and fake quotes amongst others could be stopped when the source, the date, the author is strictly considered. Practitioners were also mandated to read beyond the headlines and also to check if the report was only a joke, amongst other indicators.
Participants observed that:
*A plural and vibrant media landscape exists in Anambra State, with potential to handle professional coverage of the governorship election.
*The outcome of media content monitoring across the country in recent national elections which indicate inadequate attention to the issues of women, persons with disability (PWDs) and rural areas, makes inclusion an area of concern on the coverage of the electoral process.
*The atmosphere in Anambra State ahead the election remains
relatively peaceful. However, in view of past experiences on the
conflictual nature of the campaign and election day phases of the
electoral cycle in Nigeria, there must be high readiness for
stakeholders, including the media, to carry out appropriate roles to
deal with the potentials for violence.
*The incidence of fake news and hate speech has constituted a challenge in relevant elections and political communication in general. It’s important to note and deal with these twin challenges in the coming Anambra election.
Equally, the INEC, has reported challenges to its facilities in the recent past and addressing these challenges is imperative.
To the Media: Journalists covering the Anambra governorship election should:
*Provide balanced, accurate, issue-based coverage free from fixation
*Provide equitable access to all political parties and candidates
*Ensure inclusivity through deliberate steps to include women, PWDs and other under-reported sections of the population.
*Give quality attention to the rural areas and not only concentrate around the urban areas.
*Manage reports and other content to keep out fake news and hate speech.
Ensure they are properly accredited by INEC and have their accreditation tag visibly displayed at all times.
Be safety conscious and not put themselves in harm’s way. They should show needed courtesy and caution when dealing with armed security personnel so there is no undue aggression.
Be adequately equipped for the task by having resource materials such as the Nigeria Media Code of Election Coverage, Gender-Sensitive Media Guidelines and the Broadcasting Code.
To Security Agencies: Security agencies should:
*Ensure a level-playing ground for all parties, ensure safety and protection of properties and lives of all citizens.
*Ensure that journalists are able to move round and discharge their duties before, during and after the election.
*See journalists as stakeholders in the electoral process and so ensure that journalists are not hindered or harassed during coverage of the governorship election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission should:
*Ensure the process of conducting a free, fair and credible election is not disrupted.
*Ensure hitch free participation of women, youth and especially, PWDs, in the electoral process.
*CSOs should play their oversight roles such as observation and reporting.
*Along with others, CSOs should also prioritize attention to voter education in the run-up to elections.
Among the attendees to the engagement were heads and managers of media outfits, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) and Radion, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria.