The 2-day media engagement forum with female candidates from the North, South-south and South-east on deepening understanding and improving the use of conventional and new/social media for campaigns & other electoral activities held in Abuja on Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th 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).
Up to forty people including female candidates and future aspirants for governorship, Senatorial, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly seats from different political party platforms in the north, south-south and south-east attended the forum. The political parties represented included All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), Labour Party (LP) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Also present were Editors and Reporters from the print, broadcast and online media.
Among the objectives of the forum was the need for female candidates/aspirants to:
- Effectively make use of the media to project their personality and programs;
- Maximize the opportunities offered by the conventional and new/social media in reaching their constituents and winning their support;
- Share experiences and discuss the challenges they have encountered in engaging during political activities, particularly campaigns; and
- Understand their rights as party members and female candidates under relevant electoral laws and media codes.
Based on the need to attain the objectives, the following papers were presented at the forum:
- Female candidates & campaigns: Winning the support of reporters/editors; getting the best of the newsroom” by Mr. Musikilu Mojeed, Managing Editor, Premium Times Abuja
- Understanding the broadcast media and opportunities for positive and wide outreach by Mrs. Tonia Ikeejeye, General Manager (News), AIT National, Abuja;
- Projection of candidature & issues: Best practice for result oriented use of the new & social media by Hajia Sani, Deputy Director, News, Voice of Nigeria (VON); and
- Understanding the rights of female candidates in securing equitable media access: Brief overview of relevant legislations and codes by Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Director, International Press Centre (IPC).
The forum noted the fact that previous monitoring of media coverage of elections had shown that majority of reports focused on male politicians with female politicians receiving less visibility. The forum recognized the persistence of negative prejudices and bias against female politicians in the media and public sphere. It further observed that:
- Most female candidates have inadequate knowledge about strategies for ensuring greater media visibility and making use of the media to reach their audiences;
- Most female politicians do not know about their rights under relevant laws and codes, especially the right of access to the media by parties and candidates;
- Despite the high rate of involvement of women in politics and the fact that they sometimes work three or four times harder than their male counterparts, only few of them usually achieve their political goals;
- 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;
- Women politicians and women groups are not doing enough to demand for the implementation of gender affirmative policies by political parties and electoral institutions;
- 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 inhibit the ability of female candidates and aspirants to make use of the media; and
- Most female candidates have not employed the social media for campaigns and engagement with voters.
In view of the presentations, the observations and the discussions, the forum recommended as follows:
- Private and state print, broadcast and online media should strive to improve their coverage and reportage of the activities of female candidates and other female politicians by abiding with the provisions of the Electoral Act (as amended), the Nigerian Broadcasting Code (as revised) and the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage on equitable access for parties and candidates;
- The media should consider the creation of dedicated news and programmes that aim at the promotion of the rights and activities of female candidates;
- Training and engagement programs should be regularly organized for women in politics to strengthen their capacity to understand electoral legislations and codes of election coverage;
- Capacity building programs including media engagement should be held with female aspirants prior to party primaries so that they can use the acquired knowledge to attain their political goals;
- All Political Parties should adopt the principle of 35% (and above) affirmative action in the selection or election of delegates and candidates;
- Relevant government agencies, especially the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should regularly organize awareness programs for female aspirants and candidates prior to elections;
- Women should give concrete support, encouragement, opportunities and assistance to fellow women involved in politics; and
- The Nigerian Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) should work out and implement strategies for winning media support for female candidates/aspirants during and after elections.
- Female candidates should always respond positively to requests for interviews and other enquiries from the media;
- Female candidates should overcome fear and confidently relate with and engage the media;
- demonstrate their capacity to make independent political decisions;
- Female candidates should 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 put together information tool kit containing their profile, photographs and other useful information on their activities for media engagement;
- Female candidates should understand that the broadcast media offers them opportunity to reach target audiences locally and nationally;
- Female candidates should publicize their profiles, programmes and other activities on social media platforms including Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Google Plus, Blog, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc as they find convenient;
- Female candidates and aspirants should build sustained contacts/friendship with reporters and editors and their newsrooms based on mutual respect;
- Female candidates and women in politics in general should create and make use of newsworthy events to express their views and opinions; and
- Female candidates should make use of the electoral act and media ethical codes to assert their right of access to the media during elections.
The participants acknowledged that the forum was beneficial and commended 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.