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The International Press Centre (IPC), in  Nigeria on Wednesday,8, March, 2023  in collaboration with Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State chapter with support from European Union organized Stakeholders roundtable meeting in PortHarcourt  on the media report on trends in coverage of 2023 electoral process in Nigeria in month of January.

Giving highlights of the trends in media coverage by IPC’s media monitoring activity on fifteen print/online newspapers reporting of the 2023 electoral process in month of January interms of political parties, conflict sensitivity,inclusiveness ,coverage of Independent Electoral Connission (INEC),Dr.Harcourt Whyte of the Rivers State University noted that the newspapers gave prominence to the two major political parties All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in their report.

Dr Whyte also noted female candidates, persons with disabilities, young persons were less reported by the newspapers monitored in the period under review.

Mr.Lanre Arogundade, Executive Director (ED) of IPC who spoke on “The Imperative of the Nigerian Media Code Of Election Coverage in Reporting  the 2023 Electoral Process and The IPC Advisory On Elections,Imperatives for Journalists Safety said

“The essence of the roundtable is for us to assess how well or how not well we have being faring in terms of the coverage of ongoing electoral processes and elections in particular.

“IPC since last year started monitoring some print media (newspapers and online) media interms of the professionalism of their coverage, interms of ethics .We are also looking at how well they are  covering the issues of women particularly female politicians, persons with disability,and the young people.And we felt that on monthly basis we should subject the findings to roundtable discussion among our colleagues so that we can know where the gaps are and the weaknesses and the reasons for those gaps.

“For example at this roundtable, some of our colleagues has observed that issues of women have not been well covered as some have said the female politicians are not making themselves available .Some have said some of the political parties are not engaging  enough.

“We are not here to lay blame but we are here to find out what we are doing,why we are doing it and how we can do it better and we are happy that a number of recommendations have come out of this roundtable with our colleagues suggesting what we need to do. 

“We have also talked about even the need for us to beam our searchlight beyond what we call the National paper,to look at local tabloids, regional newspapers.May be from there we can have a feel of how well they are reporting issues that affect our people.

“So these are the reasons we are having the roundtable discussion, where we have looked at the outcome of the monitoring report for January 2023 .

“The other reason why we are doing it, is for us to do better because we have Governorship and state house of Assembly elections this week, Saturday March 11, although the time is short but campaign are still on atleast they will campaign till Thursday.So we still have an opportunity to project female candidates,if there are young candidates we still have opportunity to project them,if there are are candidates living with disabilities we still have opportunity to project them.

“Beyond that is the language of our reporting because following what happened on February 25,alot of people are aggrieved.Some are happy,some are not happy .As media organizations we have to be above all these emotions and sentiments and present the facts and the issues to the people .

“This is the reason we are having the important roundtable .The recommendation here is that we as Journalists must know that our audiences are wider than we think and we should not limit our coverage to the urban areas.On our own we should find time to go to the rural areas to talk to ordinary people there.What are their interest in the election.What do they want.What do they want the next Governor in Rivers State for example to do for them.We should not assume on behalf of the people and we should not limit ourselves to those who come to the cities and claim they are speaking for the people .

“We have leaders of different ethnic nationality for example,We even have regional leaders and  the ordinary people themselves.  The recommendation here is that we have a duty to go out there to meet them and project their voices in our report”.

Emem Okon, Executive Director of Kebatkeche Women Development & Resource Centre who is also one of the discussant at the roundtable said 

” in the first place this meeting is about presentation of a report of how the media have covered the electoral process and to me that report is commendable because it provides a window for some of us and  also the media to assess how the electoral process have being going on and how the media is engaging with it.

“But to me is one sided because the report favours the privileged more than the disadvantaged people.So I think the media needs to balance it.We need to create the balance so that we project those people who can pay to be in the media and the underprivileged,underrepresented, marginalized groups 

“Alot of them have something to say,alot of them have one role or the other they are playing in the electoral process.

“Most importantly is also good to expose how this persons have being marginalized or included either at the level of their Political practice, in the communities,in their local Government,all the entire Political process .It helps to create the balance,it helps to show people where they are not doing well,where they are doing well and areas to improve upon.

“Generally in the last election,the performance of the voters was very impressive.Something has shifted in the system,  more personss are interested to ensure their votes count .So people stayed in some polling units even overnight to ensure that results are uploaded before they leave.

“That is why alot of people are disappointed because is like after everything we did the report from my polling unit is something different from what we saw .

“So people are not happy, people are discouraged .I think the media has a key role to play in this .There is need to ensure that that tempo,that drive,that interest in the electoral process is sustained so that it will not affect the next election.

“Let it be that by the time will get to the next election the voters interest in the process is much more improved and there is that drive for them to ensure that their role,their function,their interest matter in the electoral process.

“On the issue of inclusiveness the media really need to pay more attention to inclusion”.

The Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists, Rivers State chapter, Stanley Job Stanley in his contribution said 

“The programme x-rayed the election held on 25th February,2023 .It has given us opportunity on areas to improve on.We have been given statistics of how the coverage went and people have also pointed out that, their are people who need attention,like the women,the rural areas,we need to look at those areas again.

“Even ourselves, Journalists,we don’t seem to talk about ourselves.Even in the course of the programme,a Journalist said she was attacked in the last election and it was not reported may be because we don’t seem to talk about ourself.

“If it happened to another person,you will see Journalists writing a report, Civil Societies will talk about it but because it concerns Journalist nobody cares.

“We should learn not only to report about what happened to others we should talk about ourself.We have talked about women, people at the rural areas and more concentration on one or two Political parties which should not be.There are so many political parties but we only heard about very few of them .

“We also heard of PDP, APC,then of late Labour Party.What happened to the rest?Alot of things happened with the other political parties but nobody heard about them”.

Our correspondents reports that Journalists at the roundtable identified some gaps in the monitoring report on electoral process coverage by fifteen of the newspapers and suggested ways of closing the gaps and also commitments to be more professional in coverage of the 2023 and subsequent elections.

Chairperson of NAWOJ, Susan,Emem Okon,ED Kebatkeche and Dr.Harcourt Whyte

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