…urges journalists to take safety precautions during elections
The International Press Centre (IPC) on Tuesday unveiled the revised Nigeria Media Code of Election Coverage to enhance the Nigerian media’s role in promoting democratic governance through fair, accurate, ethical and inclusive coverage of electoral processes and elections.
The presentation made at a stakeholders’ roundtable in Abuja gave an indicative scorecard on the performance of monitored media around thematic issues of the 2023 general elections.
The Executive Director of IPC, Mr Lanre Arogundade, in his welcome remarks enjoined journalists to be guided by the Code to give equitable media coverage to all parties and to be professional in carrying out their social responsibility.
He urged all journalists who will be on election duty to take their safety seriously as experience has shown that journalists face harassment during elections in the hands of security agents, political party supporters and others, with IPC recording about 250 of such incidents in 2019.
Although no journalist was killed during 2019 general elections, about 250 journalists were molested across the country, including those who were accredited.
“Journalists get attacked while covering campaign activities, they get molested in the line of duty, even journalists accredited were still molested by security agencies,” Arogundade said.
“We are making appeal to the law enforcement or security agencies that what happened in 2019 should not repeat itself.
“If a journalist is accredited and is able to show evidence of accreditation and in addition to that the identity card of his organisation, any policeman or soldier on national duty should know that a journalist is not a busybody and therefore should not be molested in any way.
“So we are using this occasion to draw the attention of INEC, governments, security agencies and political parties to their responsibilities, if they want us to cover these elections effectively. Journalists have rights and they should be respected,” he added.
The basic steps to take, according to him, include ensuring you have INEC accreditation; checking your health status before going to the field; demanding for insurance cover from your employers especially if you are asked to cover election in violence-prone areas; making sure that you have contact details of those to reach in case of emergency; and staying away from mobs should there be violence.
Additionally, journalists on election duty should avoid riding to campaign activities of political parties in the convoy of candidates and refrain from donning party insignias even if your employer is a politician or a candidate.
He equally advised the media to shun promoting hate-speech that could incite violence and always have in mind the school of conflict sensitivity while reporting.
The Code, he said, obligates the government, the INEC, the political parties and the Civil Society to help provide the enabling environment for the media to perform its functions during elections.
“The Code is necessary to guard against press restriction and attack experienced during elections,” he said.
The Revised Nigerian Media Code of Elections Coverage 2022 endorsed by major media stakeholders is a professional code/guide for journalists in reporting elections.
The media monitoring activity is one of the activities being implemented by IPC under an EU-funded project entitled ‘Strengthening the media for fair, accurate, ethical and inclusive coverage of the electoral processes and elections in Nigeria”, with the overall goal to support the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria with the media (broadcast, print and online media) helping to facilitate the key ingredient of credible elections through engagement and professionalism in coverage and reportage of the electoral processes.
Mr. Arogundade also expressed gratitude to the European Union for providing the funding support for the project under which the roundtable was convened.