The 2-day media engagement forum with female candidates in the south west on deepening understanding and improving the use of conventional and new/social media for campaigns & other electoral activities was held in Ibadan on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th January, 2015.
The media engagement forum was organized by the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria,with the support of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Democratic Governance for Development (DGD lll) Project and its partners including the European Union (EU).
In attendance were about 40 participants consisting of female candidates contesting for governorship, Senatorial, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly seats on different political party platforms in the south west in February. Among the political parties represented at the forum were KOWA, ACCORD Party (AP), All Progressives Congress (APC), National Conscience Party (NCP), Labour Party (LP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Alliance for Democracy (AD). The participants also included Editors and Reporters from the print, broadcast and online media.
The objectives of forum included the need to deepen the female candidates’ understanding of the workings of the media; the need to ensure that female candidates maximize the opportunities offered by the conventional and social media in projecting their candidature and issues; the need to share experiences and discuss the challenges faced by female candidates in engaging the media in the course of their political activities especially campaigns; the need to highlight the right of media access for female politicians as party members and as candidates under relevant legislations and institutional frameworks and the need to develop an action plan that will ensure that the media contributes significantly to the success of female candidates at the February polls.
The forum also took into consideration prevalent observations that media coverage and reportage of elections is almost always skewed in favour of male politicians while negative perceptions and stereotypes about female politicians still exist in the media; hence the need to come up with strategies that will help address the prevailing gender imbalance in the reporting of elections.
The forum therefore featured the following presentations:
- Presentation 1: Female candidates & campaigns: Winning the support of reporters/editors; getting the best of the newsroom” by Mrs. Tinuola Ayanniyi; Associate Editor( News), Nigerian Tribune Newspaper;
- Presentation 2: Understanding the broadcast media: Opportunities for positive and wide outreach by Mr. Diji Akinhanmi, Director News/Current Affairs, Ogun State Television (OGTV);
- Presentation 3: Projection of candidature & issues: Best practice for result oriented use of the new & social media by Mr. Qasim Akinreti, Social Media Expert and News Manager, Voice of Nigeria (VON);
- Presentation 4: Understanding the rights of female candidates in securing equitable media access: Overview of relevant electoral legislative and institutional frameworks by Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Director, International Press Centre (IPC); and
- Presentation 5: The art of writing press releases by Mr. Sanmi Falobi; Program Associate, IPC and Online Editor, Nigerian Democratic Report (NDR) @www.ndr.org.ng
The presentations goaded the participants into animated discussions on their experiences, challenges and perceptions of the media as well as their political rights. In particular, it was observed that:
- Most female candidates lack adequate knowledge about relating with and engaging the media for positive projection;
- Most female politicians lack adequate knowledge of their rights as political party members and candidates under relevant electoral institutional and legislative frameworks;
- The society especially its major institutions like the media, the political parties, the civil society etc, are not doing enough to encourage women participation in governance and election into political offices;
- The tendency of women tend to be more development focused and less corrupt should serve as justification to vote them into political offices;
- Women politicians and women groups are not doing enough to demand for the implementation of gender affirmative policies;
- Activities of female candidates are not being adequately covered and reported by the media;
- The demand for payment for news or coverage and high costs of political advertorials sometimes discourage female candidates from reaching out to the media; and
- Female and male candidates should have equal rights and opportunities to use the media to disseminate information on their electoral activities.
The forum recommended as follows:
For media institutions/support groups, political parties, government agencies and development partners.
- The print, broadcast and online media (private and government owned) should as a matter of deliberate editorial policy grant more opportunities for female candidates to reach the electorate with their political messages; they should do this in the context of the provisions of the Electoral Act (as amended) and the Nigerian Broadcasting Code (as revised) on equitable access for parties and candidates and the requirement by the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage for adequate reporting of female candidates being an under-represented group;
- Capacity building programs should be continuously organized for women in politics in order to address obvious knowledge gaps about electoral legislations, political rights and the right of access to the media;
- Capacity building programs for female aspirants and candidates should be held much early in the electoral process so women politicians can use the acquired knowledge to drive their aspirations long before elections;
- Political Parties should adopt the principle of affirmative action in the selection or election of candidates while also taking up the responsibility of deliberately building the capacity of female aspirants/candidates towards making a success of their aspirations;
- Relevant government agencies, especially the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should take it as a responsibility to organize sensitization and capacity building programmes for female aspirants and candidates prior to elections;
- Female candidates at all levels should be enlightened on their rights and be given opportunities to actualize their political aspirations;
- The media should do more for female candidates by creating dedicated news space/programmes that advance women’s rights and promote female candidates; and
- The Nigerian Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) should work closely with female candidates towards ensuring positive and wider coverage of their campaigns and issues.
For female candidates
- Female candidates should strive to overcome gender inhibitions and devise constructive and engaging ways to present themselves to voters through the media;
- Female candidates exude confidence and use the media to demonstrate their capacity to make independent political decisions;
- Female candidates should be bold and assertive and refrain from avoiding the media during campaigns; they should, on the other hand, develop enduring relations with the media; they should freely grant interviews, issue press statements and request media coverage of their activities including briefings, campaigns, rallies, etc
- Female candidates should establish regular contact with media professionals via emails, sms messages and phone calls as circumstances dictate;
- Female candidates should leverage on the use of new and social media channels including facebook, twitter, flickr, sms etc to provide public information on their profile, programs and manifestoes and political activities;
- Female candidates should develop information tool kit containing a summary of their Curriculum Vitae, that is, who they are, their qualifications, their past activities, what they stand for, photographs, etc for distribution to the media as occasion demands;
- Female candidates and women in politics in general should make themselves relevant by bringing to media attention issues affecting their communities and not limiting themselves to only election and campaign issues;
- Female candidates should make use of electoral legislations and media codes to assert their right of access to the media;
The participants said the media engagement was beneficial and expressed gratitude to the United Nations Development Programme’s Democratic Governance for Development (UNDP-DGD111) and its partners including the EU, the UK AID, the Canadian Department for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFTAD) and the UNDP for supporting IPC to organize the forum.