Issued at the end of a One-Day Stakeholders’ Roundtable on the Media Monitoring Report on Trends in Coverage of 2023 Electoral Process, held on Wednesday March 8, 2023 at Echelon Heights Hotel, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria, the lead implementing partner of Component 4 (Support to Media) of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria – Phase 2 (EUSDGN II) project, convened a one-day stakeholders’ roundtable on the outcome of the media monitoring report on the trends in coverage of 2023 electoral process (January 2023) on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The roundtable brought together media stakeholders to analyse the issues arising from the trends in reportage of 15 print/online newspapers and observation on the activities on INEC website/twitter platform for the period January 2023. The roundtable also addressed related issues of media coverage of the 2023 electoral process, especially ahead of the Governorship and House of Assembly elections following which the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage and the Safety Advisory on the Coverage of Elections were also presented and discussed.
The roundtable was attended by the leadership of media professional bodies/associations; reporters from the print, broadcast and online mediums and representatives of the academia and the civil society.
Those in attendance and who delivered goodwill remarks and presentations included Mrs. Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, Chairperson of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State chapter and Comrade Job Stanley, Chairman of Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), who also doubled as a discussant of the expert review by Dr. Dike Harcourt Whyte of Rivers State University. The other discussant was Mrs. Emem Okon, the Executive Director of Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre.
IPC’s Communication Officer, Ms. Olutoyin Ayoade, delivered the welcome remarks while the Executive Director, Mr. Lanre Arogundade made a presentation on the Conflict Sensitivity and Safety Consciousness in the context of the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage.
Following the presentations, the participants observed that:
- The monitored media were generally not inclusive in their coverage of the 2023 elections during the period under review;
- Women and persons with disability (PWD) were among the groups that received little coverage from the monitored media during the period;
- Female candidates and female politicians were particularly poorly reported and not given the deserved prominence;
- The dearth of misinformation, disinformation and hate speech in the monitored media during the period was commendable but there were some reports that were conflict insensitive and therefore capable of inciting violence;
- Most of the analysed reports however met the required standards of conflict-sensitivity in election reporting
- While there was robust coverage of the eighteen political parties participating in the presidential elections, only few notably the All Progressives Congress, the Peoples Democratic party and the Labour Party dominated the front pages;
- The monitoring exercise is useful in providing insight into the state of compliance with ethical and professional standards of election coverage and therefore should be sustained.
In line with the requirements of the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage and other regulatory frameworks like the Nigeria Broadcasting Code and the Electoral Act 2022 as well as the IPC Safety Advisory, the participants recommended that journalists and other media professionals should in the aftermath of the presidential and National Assembly elections and ahead of the governorship and state assembly elections strive to:
- Give equitable coverage to parties and candidates contesting the governorship and states house of assembly elections;
- Stick to the facts of electoral and campaign issues and avoid infusing their personal opinions and biases into election and political reports;
- Refrain from publishing misinformation and disinformationby constantly exercising the discipline of verification;
- Regularly uphold the tenets of conflict-sensitive areas and issues
- Give more prominence to the issues of underrepresented groups (women, youths and persons with disability) especially those residing in the rural areas;
- Give equitable coverage to male and female politicians particularly the candidates;
- Publish news and cast headlines that will mitigate conflict and prevent violence especially in the light of disputes arising from the presidential elections, which may also follow the governorship and states house of assembly elections;
- Take their personal safety seriously given the experience during the February 25, 2023 presidential and national assembly elections with IPC documenting at least 10 cases of press attacks involving over 20 journalists across 7 states and the FCT.
Finally, the participants called on the government, the law enforcement and security agents, the political parties, the Independent National Electoral Commission and media proprietors to ensure that they provide the enabling environment for journalists to professionally report the electoral processes and elections.
Press Freedom/Project Officer, IPC