Election stakeholders, have tasked media practitioners in Nigeria on ensuring unbiased and credible coverage of 2023 general election to safeguard the country’s democracy.
The stakeholders said this at a one-day roundtable on the role of mass media in a free and fair election for sustainable democracy organised by Japan International Cooperation Agency(JICA)Alumni Association of Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja.
Mr Festus Okoye, the National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said the commission recognised the media as a critical stakeholder in the political process.
Okoye, represented by Mr Chuwkuemeka Ugboaja, INEC Deputy Director,Voter Education and Publicity,, said this was because democracy thrived with effective information flow.
“Basically, as has been established over time, the role of the media in the electoral process includes to avail the critical stakeholders with timely and relevant information pertaining to the electoral process.
“The media carry out voter education and public enlightenment in the context of the electoral legal framework and the process and procedures pertaining to the elections.
“They mobilise the electorates to participate in the electoral process through awakening in them the consciousness of taking ownership of the political process.
“They give vent to the programmes and activities of the election management body with a view to bringing stakeholders up to speed with development therein among others,” he said.
Okoye urged the media to have a working knowledge of INEC’s operations, be conversant with its processes and procedures and to always seek for official clarification on germane and serious national issues not to pick information from unverified sources.
Mr Salihu Dembos, the Director-General,Nigerian Televison Authority (NTA) , said most of the challenges journalists faced could easily be overcome by maintaining credibility and avoiding fake news.
Dembos, represented by Mr Paul Attte,General Manager, NTA 5 Abuja,said there has been a universal agreement that journalists must be properly guided especially in the reportage of election.
” Elections, it should be noted are not ordinary events hence why elections are normally conducted within the framework of an Electoral Law.
“The Elections Law provided the foundation for other activities, including news reports, involving electoral process, several regulatory and professional bodies,” he said.
Dembos urged journalists to maintain professionalism and be guided by the ethics of the profession in the line of duty.
The Keynote Speaker, Dr Josiah Kante of Department of Mass Communication, Nassarawa State University, advised journalists not to dance to tune of politicians.
Kante, represented by Dr Abimiku Monday, Research Fellow, Mass Communication Department of the university urged the media to shun reportage of religious and ethnic bigotry among others.
He said the media should not get itself entangled with politicians or be used by them to propagate scandals, propaganda or fake news.
He urged them to shun ‘brown envelope syndrome’,engage in balanced reportage and work in the interest of the masses and defend Nigeria’s democracy.
Mr Ahmed Agberankhe, President, JICA Alumni Association of Nigeria (JAAN), said the roundtable was organised with support from JICA.
Agberankhe said the aim of the association was to help to build a strong and virile Nigerian economy promote economic and cultural ties between Nigeria and Japan .
He said that it was to also help Nigerians who wish to travel to Japan as well as helping the needy in the society.
“To achieve these,JAAN organises seminars ,workshops ,trainings on issues and subjects aimed at improving the overall standards of Nigeria.
“Our decision to organise this round table is informed by our esteemed regards for the presidential as an engine of peaceful mobilisation for peaceful national development,” he said.(NAN)(