As the need for a stable democratic system continue to increase among Nigerians, issues relating to successful elections have also continue to gather momentum, particularly, as the country’s 2015 general election draws nearer. This in most cases exposes high expectations of Nigerians on authorities concern particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, government, politicians, the Media, and all other stakeholders.
Taking a look in to some of the issues revealed that, the prevailing issues of insecurity particularly in the north east, the increasing number of Internally Displaced Persons, gender insensitivity, massive ignorance among Nigerians on electoral processes, religious and ethnic sentiments are some of the key areas that needed to be focused on especially in regards to the success of the elections.
This urgent need requires particularly the media as the fourth estate of the realm to take up its responsibility of informing and educating the public on electoral processes taking in recognition of conflict management for the interest of the nation.
For instance many political observers believe that the 2011 general election which was greeted by serious tension that emanated into crisis claiming many lives and properties would have been minimised or even avoided through massive enlightenment on electoral process and voter education by the media.
It has also been argued that crisis that are peculiar with politics were usually stirred up whenever there were massive ignorance on electoral process, some causes were identified as free flow of misinformed reports and inciting statements that are capable of raising tension and rivalry among supporters of various parties of groups.
However, the Media which are believed to have the capability of molding the society, has been identified as a key stakeholder in the struggle of ensuring successful conduct of elections in Nigeria, even as a tool for deepening democracy in the country.
In a communiqué issued at a workshop organized for Northeast journalists sometime in Abuja last year by International Press Center IPC in collaboration with Democratic Governance for Development Project of the United Nations Development Programme and other development partners,challenges were posed to the media on some of their key responsibilities which include the need to improve on their responsibility to keep the public well informed about electoral processes and the need to encourage women to actively participate in exercising their civic rights.
Other observation include the need for the media to engage in conflict management reporting rather than reporting inflammatory statements that are capable of generating tension that were always associated with politics. These according to the communiqué could be done through total adherence to the code and ethics guiding the profession of journalism, by ensuring facts based unbiased, balance and neutrality in reporting.
Taking a looking into issues regarding past elections in the country as it relates to the function of the media, it has been observed that, the media had not properly provide informed analysis of all stages of the electoral process, including the inadequacy to report developmental and gender sensitive issues, and the failure to overcome some impact of sentiments based on ethnicity and religious bias in their reportage.
While these may be true, the fact still remains that, the media which have the role of agenda setting must rise up to its responsibility and assist in preventing political conflict for the general interest of the society.
In a paper presentation by a Media analyst Umar Farouk Musa at the workshop on media Report and conflict Management, he pointed out that journalists at all cost must be seen to work toward protecting public interest and not individuals based on any form of reason by keeping it well informed with factual information through recognizing professional standards of journalism, that will be seen to ensure conflict management rather than raising tension that may lead to crisis.
In his words “Beside the original accepted roles of the media as informing, educating, and entertaining, there is a major opportunity for it to help manage conflict, by strictly adhering to the ethics of the profession. The ethics of the profession demands among others, that media professionals should be truthful, accurate, and fair and balance in their reports and broadcasts.”
Making emphasis on the need to strictly adhere to the ethics of journalism while reporting, a paper presentation by Chairman TRIM Communications Nigeria Limited Dr Tom Adaba on ethics of journalism and electoral reportage, also dwelt on the need for the media to abide by professional ethics in their reportage, according to him, it was expectant of the Media to always take into consideration the rules of engagement for the media and electoral laws in regards to reporting electoral process.
He said Broadcasting Corporation Code section 5.2 has provides that the transmission of all aspects of political enlightenment are civic duties which the Media must carry out in other to provide information to the public, adding that, the same section of the code also prohibits partisanship, or any act of favoritism to any political party for any reason among others.
According to him, abiding by the set standards of professionalism as enshrined in the codes and ethics of journalism, would not only strengthen the Media, but would assist in maintaining integrity of the Media as well as keeping the profession from undue crisis.
Giving highlights on the need for the Media to exercise highest level of responsibility and integrity were given in a paper presented by Editor of the Chronicle Newspaper Mr Sam Egbala, he also emphasized that reporters of various Mediaorganizations must always ensure that reports were packaged in a manner that promotes national growth and
According to him, every media organization must acquaint themselves with the ethical codes of journalism, he said reports must be written in professionally accepted techniques that include truth, accuracy, fairness, objectivity, public interest and trust, social and press freedom responsibilities among others. He said the Media must stand to its responsibility with commitment particularly at this present time when the society was flooded by the influx of the social media.
The two day workshop was said to be organized with a view to encourage Nigerian Journalists particularly those practicing in the northeast sub region, on role the media needs to play particularly as the nation faces its forth coming general elections.
Because of the importance attached to democracy, organizers of the workshop said they were working towards promoting best practices among journalists on election reporting, in other to facilitate peaceful and credible elections in the country, to also encourage the media to take up its duty of public education, information dissemination that will promote transparency and true democracy.
One of its set objectives particularly in relation to the media was said to be an effort to support media pluralism, and capacity development of journalists towards achieving professionalism in election reportage.
Recently, the Independent National Electoral Commission has in a statement signed by its chairman Prof Atahiru Jega and made available to journalists implored all Nigerians to improve on their confidence in the commission by setting aside unnecessary primordial sentiments and accept the exercise with patriotism, it urged all stakeholders to put in their best and ensure success of the forthcoming elections.