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2023: IPC Trains Online Journalists, Bloggers On Conflict-Sensitive Elections Reporting

Ahead of the forthcoming general elections in Nigeria, the International Press Centre, IPC, with support from the European Union Support, and Democratic Governance in Nigeria, EUSGN has trained online journalists and bloggers from the southern part of the country on conflict-sensitive reporting of the 2023 elections.

In his welcoming address the Managing Director, IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade who was represented by the Project Director, IPC, Melody Akinjuyan, said the engagement which was a one-day skill-enhancing and capacity-building workshop for bloggers/online journalists on conflict-sensitive reporting in the build-up to the 2023 general election was aimed at strengthening the media for fair, accurate, ethical and inclusive reporting of the electoral processes and elections and in particular, to mitigate perceived and anticipated issues of the spread of hate speech online and other forms of non-conflict sensitive reporting.

“As the European Union Support, Democratic Governance in Nigeria, EUSGN, I want to warmly welcome everyone to this online engagement with bloggers and online journalists on conflict-sensitive reporting of the 2023 general elections in Nigeria which of course is taking place today for participants across the southern region of the country”.

“This engagement is in pursuant to the aims and objectives of component 4, which is support to the media which is EUSGN project being implemented by the IPC as a partner and other partners, the Institute for Media and Society, IMS to empower the media’s role in promoting democratic governance through a fair accurate, ethical and inclusive coverage of the electoral processes and elections in Nigeria”. 

Maureen Chigbo, President, the Guild of Online Corporate Publishers (GOCOP), in her goodwill message said this initiative is very germane, important, and significant because it is happening at a time that we need to be very sensitive in what we are writing and reporting about the forthcoming 2023 elections.

She gave four quotes to help in the sensitive reporting and also have peace in the society after the elections. “ Jesica said every election is determined by those who show up first,” she said the journalists here are those who are showing up first in other to be trained to avoid conflict during the elections, it is not those who show up in the election days, but the election process, the way it is managed unto the point of voting, counting, and announcing the votes. The way and manner it is reported is important in order to avoid conflicts in our society. Journalists are at the forefront of how it is reported and the society gets the information on who is winning or losing to manage the information in order to make sense to the society to avoid conflicts and anything that can lead to violence”. So every election is determined by those who show up first. We are here to learn how to manage the information to avoid anything that can lead to conflicts that consume our nation, she said.

The second quote is, “if we don’t vote, we are ignoring history and giving away our future”. The job of journalists is to inform society appropriately in order for our generation to grow, and for the nation to thrive. 

The third one is by Joseph Stalin, “the people who cast the vote don’t decide the vote but the people who count the votes do”. Wherever you stand on this quote could lead to conflicts we must be able to manage the information in order not to lead to conflicts.

Leadership is not about the next election but the next generations. There’s life after elections. Whatever we want to do or say from now, we must learn that there’s life after elections. Everything must not come to a halt before, during, and after the elections, there must be life after that.

Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to the Independence National Electoral Commision Chairman, in his remarks urged online journalists and bloggers to shun fake news and hate speech that can possibly set the country into fire before, during and after the elections. He urged them to be accurate in their reporting as we approach the general elections and at all time to avoid conflicts. 

He added that conflicts are part of Nigeria and the journalists should not blow it out of proportion in their reports in order not to escalate issues. He appealed to them to be accurate in their reports.

“When we are reporting, also need to be sensitive in order to avoid things that can lead to escalation’, he said. Be circumspect in your reporting and not stereotype any tribe because it might lead to conflicts”.

Also in his remarks, the Managing Director, Mr Lanre Arogundade stressed the importance of the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage in assisting journalists to successfully cover campaigns and elections, among other mechanisms, while urging election reporters to acquaint themselves with the important document.

“The Nigeria Media Code of Election Coverage is a very powerful tool to help journalists successfully and effectively cover campaigns and elections,” he said.

Arogundade said it is the responsibility of journalists to project the voices of underrepresented groups, such as women and Persons Living With Disability (PWDs) candidates, while he also harped on the strict adherence of election reporters to the ethics of the profession.

According to him, it is unethical for a journalist to collect bribes or demand to be paid money to do their work, as he cautioned that they should be careful in their relationship with politicians.

The resource persons include Mr. Qasim Akinreti, the Deputy Director, Digital Media at the Voice of Nigeria, VON, who spoke on “Sticking To Professionalism & Ethics In Online Reporting Of Campaigns And Elections” urging the journalists to be extremely careful in terms of the narrative they are pushing out as they are the life-wire of the society. 

“The beauty of  Media practice in the 21st century is the full deployment of technology for news gathering, editing, and producing news, features, and documentaries for end users, whose demographics have changed considerably”.

 “These technology tools are –Computers, The Internet, mobile phones, and lately the use of drones. These are used by individuals, groups called Bloggers, or Online Journalists who in most cases are not trained, Journalists. Those who are trained Journalists  have failed to abide by  the rules of engagement or ethics of the profession.” 

“These are citizens who are activists, with strong views, who do not share the values of the mainstream media. They just want to publish, broadcast, and be damned. In the current political dispensation, they do not understand the electoral laws or the Nigerian Media  Code of Election Coverage”.

He said bloggers and online journalists should be catalysts of transparent electoral processes and credible, free, fair, and peaceful elections and urged them to be accurate and not biased. 

He urged bloggers and online journalists to focus on issue-based reporting and not personality. He said the 2023 elections will define the future of Nigeria.

We must verify the information at our disposal before pushing out. There must be a gatekeeper. We must not become the purveyors of fake news. Journalists must not pitch tents with politicians. He urged journalists to retrace their steps and be fair in their reporting. Journalists must verify and verify before pushing out reports. They must understand the better way to manage information. Journalists must not fail Nigeria at this point in time. They must be careful in the use of language in their reportage. They must be aware that there is life after elections, he said.

Another resource person, Prof Muyiwa Popoola, Professor of Journalism, Communication and Media Studies, Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Oyo State, Nigeria, spoke on “Conflict Sensitivity Principles and their Imperatives in Season of Campaigns”.

He said; “The Conflict-Sensitive Reporting (CSR) style has its antecedent in the propositions and submissions on Peace Journalism, which canvasses for the totality of activities involved in journalism practice that fosters minimization of violence and promotion of peaceful behaviours in society (Galtung, 2002, Okunna and Popoola, 2017; Popoola, 2015) .A peace media system orientates its culture and the cultural development of the society within which it operates towards peacefulness”. 

He noted that anywhere in the world, whenever politics is played conflicts is bound to occur.

“The Nigerian mass media system, for instance, can be transformed into a peaceful media system to play a central role in promoting peace in our multicultural and diverse socio-political environment. It can emphasize the benefits of peace by raising the legitimacy of groups and political leaders working for peace. It can help transform the images of the enemy among rival political and social groups involved in the country’s recurrent social and political conflicts. Amid most social conflicts, the media are privileged to be in a position to contribute to peace initiatives, especially in reconciling various factions after political turbulence.”

He urged the journalists to be mindful of the choice of words they use in their reporting.

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Damilare Bankole

Managing Editor, Lagos Post Online. Damilare is a disciplined tech enthusiast and media entrepreneur with interest and unparalleled passion for model Web and app design technology. He is a firm believer in the meaningful role research and innovation can play in addressing economic issues across industries and sectors. He's passionate about online Journalism. Damilare is also a Photographer. M: +2348025837037 E: lagospostng@gmail.com

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