Rakiya A. Muhammad
How to get election reporting right was a central focus at the International Press Centre’s workshop designed to enhance the professional skills of female journalists to engage in impactful, inclusive, and public-interest reporting of the ongoing electoral processes and, particularly, the 2023 elections.
“Not getting it right means hindering the effective performance of the four core roles of the media in elections,” pointed out Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Executive Director of the International Press Centre (IPC).
He listed such roles as civic and voter education, conflict management, public educator, and campaign platform/open forum.
Embracing elements of good political reports
The Media Development Specialist underscored the importance of conflict-sensitive reporting.
“Generally, a conflict-sensitive Journalist will embrace the elements of a good political report,” he said, stressing the need for them to ensure their reports are issue–focused, diverse, balanced by eliminating all biases, not presenting opinion as fact, seeking evidence of allegations and getting the other side to respond.
He urged journalists to use all the good reporting techniques: thoroughness, details, accuracy and strong resources, and help people make informed decisions.
On safety, he advised:” Envisage threat and prepare – meaning have the consciousness, secure your information using basic data and digital security tools and measures.”
He noted the importance of the media, considered the fourth estate of the realm and its role in democracy.
“Democracy, considered the best form of governance, can only thrive with a robust media institution,” he stressed.
“The media mediate between and among all other institutions as their workings rely heavily on it to be efficient.”
Baring the facts, bridging the trust gap
Veteran journalist and Executive Director International Society of Media in Public Health Moji Makanjuola expounded on the electoral process, the 2023 elections and the role of the media.
She observed that more is at stake now for the nation, stressing the need for reportage to “bare the facts and bridge the trust gap”.
Mrs. Makanjuola advised journalists not to play to the gallery of “conscienceless politicians and allies.” She called for tireless and careful reportage until action is taken.
Making a difference in inclusion
Mrs Makanjuola urged journalists to prioritise issues of women and other under-represented groups.
“Gender and Social Inclusion means all groups must be represented to have a voice in decision-making, nation-building, peace-building etc.,” she asserted.
“Women 110M+ and other excluded groups actually represent a greater majority in Nigeria and their Issues and others (such as youths 65m & PLWD about 4m) are under-represented groups.”
She advised female journalists to be determined to make a difference for inclusion.
Also, President NAWOJ Comrade Ladi Bala urged media and journalists to strive to get it right by setting the correct agenda for gender inclusion and persons with disabilities.
“As women journalists, let us be in the vanguard of promoting women’s issues, gender inclusivity and discouraging gender marginalisation in the electoral process and after the elections,” she advised.
Fact Checking, Countering Disinformation
The workshop also strengthened media professionals’ capacity to deal with electoral misinformation/disinformation by exposing them to practical tools for countering such.
Nigeria Editor Africa Check David Ajikobi accentuated the essence of fact-checking, which he described as the process of verifying information and an essential part of journalism.
He noted conspiracy theories breed disinformation- described as false or misleading information that is created and spread deliberately to deceive.
“While journalists hunt for new angles to major breaking news, producers of fake news simply create them,” he pointed out.
“Any gap in a big story is a potential tool for disinformation.”
Ajikobi explained facts backed up by evidence could be checked and verified, while claims about the future and opinions are not fact checkable.
When deciding what to fact-check, he advised journalists to consider “first and most important, what will the overall impact be if the statement or claim is not fact-checked?”
Other questions to ask, he said, include:
*Will it put people’s lives at risk?
* Will it have an impact on important decisions the public have to make?
* How prominent is the person or organisation who shared the information?
* Is the false information widely spread, or might your fact-checking report amplify it?
* Does the claim spread unnecessary fear? Is it fact-checkable?
Reporting in the public’s interest
“Reporting in the public interest,” says Taiwo Obe, Founder/Director of the journalism clinic, “is about the people, your knowledge, vigilance, issues, localities, agendas, fact-checking, inclusiveness.”
He added: “It is about RUSH, Reporting Until Something Happens.”
Obe underlined the media’s role in informing and educating the citizens about all the processes involved in the elections, harping on the need to give people the information they need to make better decisions about their lives and society.
The workshop was one of the activities being implemented by IPC, as lead partner, and the Institute for Media and Society (IMS) under Component 4: Support to Media of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGNII) project.
“We are delighted to have as a worthy partner in this exercise, the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), under the leadership of Ladi Bala, which underscores our joint commitment to ensuring that female journalists are equipped to help strengthen the democratic processes,” stated the IPC Executive Director.
He said the project sought to make the media catalysts of credible elections, adding “ the actions, including media engagements like this, seek to strengthen the media for fair, accurate, ethical and inclusive coverage of electoral processes in Nigeria.”