As the 2023 general elections draw near, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Monday held a capacity building for journalists in Southwest, charging them to avoid sensational reports that can set the country on fire before, during and after the polls.
The training workshop with the theme “Conflict-Sensitive Reporting and 2023 General Election”, took place at NUJ Press Center, Alagbaka Akure, the state capital and also, had in attendance journalists from different media organizations.
The National President of NUJ, Comrade Chris Isiguzo, in his adddess appreciated INEC for providing the opportunity to discuss issues bordering on the 2023 General Election in the Country.
Isiguzo also applauded INEC for its support over the years which indicates the kind of transparency and accountability required in an Election Management Body and the media sees it as a cardinal objective to promote democracy and development and therefore the media shall continue to work with INEC to ensure that democracy works properly in the Country.
The National President who was represented by the NUJ National Trustee (South-south) and General Manager of Radio Nigeria Bronze FM, Benin City, Comrade (Mrs) Bimbo Oyetunde opined that the Media, regarded as the fourth estate of the realm, are an essential factor in the process of democracy as they do not only monitor governance and make government accountable, but also help to mobilise the populace to participate in the process of governance and development.
“Since the functions of government are clear, in performing these functions, government officials are expected to be honest, responsible, transparent, accountable, efficient in administration and services delivery. Where any of these is lacking or is deliberately subverted, it is the responsibility of the media to raise alarm. It is therefore clear that the media are central in the process of ensuring credible elections in the country”.
“It should be noted however, that in the course of their work over the years many journalists have either lost their lives or had sustained various degrees of injuries or had their equipment damaged especially during election times . Nothing or little is done to ensure accountability for attacks on journalists and the media in Nigeria, thus the culture of impunity for such attacks persists. It is important for Stakeholders to work towards minimising these.
“It is an incontrovertible fact that the indispensable functions of the media cannot be performed without the guarantee of the safety of Journalists and media workers. Without doubt, the safety of Journalists is absolutely essential to the Civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all citizens as well as the right to development”.
“The NUJ believes that for the masses of this country to actively participate in the democratic process, the media itself must be strengthened to ensure that some of the mechanisms through which community empowerment can be achieved are put in place, and this includes the unhindered access to imformation, and proactive initiatives like this with INEC which is aimed at strengthening the way and manner Journalists perform their work during election times.”
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Rufus Akeju in his goodwill message, applauded Ondo NUJ for its understanding, cooperation and for creating time to attend series of the Commission’s engagements on electoral process and activities over the years.
Akeju added that journalists must play the roles that is expected of them to avert breach of peace by being objective and neutral in their reportage before, during and after the 2023 General Elections.
“The Media plays an indispensable role in the proper functioning of democracy by protecting the fundamental human right of the citizens. The role of the journalists to report objectively on the conduct of the elections cannot be overemphasized because they are trusted by the society to disseminate pertinent information during the democratic electoral process. Indeed, the information thus disseminated is vital in mobilizing, sensitizing and educating the voters on their rights and obligations”.
While urging all journalists to always live up to expectation, be professional and objective, Akeju noted that the commission is determined to conduct free, fair, credible, inclusive and peaceful General Elections that meets the aspirations of Nigerians and the International Community in 2023.
“INEC will always be up to task and available to attend to everything that falls within the ambit of its mandates as enshrined in the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s constitution as we have always been doing. It is my prayer that our efforts and your inputs shall work for the development of our democracy and entrench good governance in our Country”.
Barr. Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education in his address commended the leadership of NUJ for bringing up the training as it is germane given the fact that the country is at the last stretch in the march to the 2023 General Election.
Okoye who was represented by the Administrative secretary, Mr Oyetola Oyelami noted that the role of the media includes: Avail the critical stakeholders with timely and relevant information pertaining to the electoral process, carry out voter education and public enlightenment in the context of the electoral legal framework and the processes and procedures pertaining to the elections.
Others are to mobilize the electorate to participate in the electoral process through awakening in them the consciousness of taking ownership of the political process, giving vent to the programmes and activities of the Election Management Body with a view to bringing stakeholders up to speed with developments therein, publicizing information and activities of political parties and candidates, with a view to helping the electorate make informed choices, ensuring through their searchlight and reports that the processes and rules of engagement in the electoral system are duly complied with.
He stressed that ass the country moves closer to the 2023 General Election, there are obvious landmines that the media must avoid, which are “The media must avoid the breaking news syndrome. Some of the mainstream media are gradually gravitating towards online journalism with the attendant quest for breaking news, which are sometimes not properly verified and processed. The media must be circumspect
in casting headlines and the thirst for sensational headlines”, among many others.
The REC promised that INEC would continue to partner with the media, not only as a key stakeholder in the electoral process but also as a viable tool for combating misinformation, fake news and malicious falsehood.
Comrade Ronke Samo, NUJ vice President, Zone B, in her goodwill message, appreciated the NUJ President for bringing the training to the doorstep of journalists, as they are the ones that will report the election as it is.
Samo urged them not to be discouraged, not to be biased, report things as they see it, do their job in the rightful way and follow each details.
The State Chairman of NUJ, Prince Leke Adegbite in his remark, appreciated the NUJ National President, Com. Chris Isiguzo for the opportunity given to the Ondo State journalists to benefit from the workshop and all he has been doing for the union.
Adegbite urged the journalists to take the training serious as it deals with the election coming up in few months.
Over 35 Participants are drawn from all the media organisations and NUJ chapels in Ondo State.