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Experts seek effective media code for 2019 general elections

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Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade

Stakeholders and practitioners in the Nigerian media industry gathered in Lagos last week to deliberate on the revised Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage. Organised by International Press Centre (IPC) and funded by the European Union’s support to democratic governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project, participants unanimously agreed that the importance of a code that guides the professional and ethical conduct of journalists covering elections could not be overemphasised.

Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, noted, “The reason for this is not farfetched. It is simply because during election time, a journalist performs all the core functions of the media almost simultaneously including servicing the political system, providing information for citizens to make informed choices, holding government accountable, giving voice to the voiceless, monitoring campaigns and so on.

“One of the major changes is in the section of hate speech. One of the observations in the last election is that despite the code there were hate advertorials. So, the section on hate speech has been expanded. We also have major issues in the area that deals with social media. The provisions in the 2014 code does not have strong sections on social media, but this one emphasises the need for media organisations to have social media policy.”

The code states: ‘A media organisation shall have an anti-hate speech reporting policy that clearly states, among others, that hate speech or inciting messages are not permitted on social media platforms.’ Another area of this new code is on the area that addresses compliance and enforcement.

For Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times, Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, “Regulations should be put in place to check excess practices. Ultimately, three elements define the practice we call journalism. First of all, its claims must be truthful and accurate. Second, its discipline must be rooted in verification, and the practitioners must be independent and be accountable to their readers/viewers/ listeners.”

He added that the code is far more advanced and easier to implement as people could relate with the recommendations. He emphasised on the need for journalists to counter hate speech and fake news on social media due to its potential danger, noting, “We need a language to respond to misinformation and fakery. We must accept that while social media promotes inclusion and participatory citizenry through expanded access and information sharing, its capacity to be negative can be tremendous.”

Chairman, Lagos Council, NUJ, Qasim Akinreti, expressed concern on how to get journalists to comply with the code of election coverage, adding, “Getting journalists to comply is critical. I suggest that we make this part and parcel of their elective cources in the university or schools of journalism.”

National President, Radio, Television Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU), Dr. Kabir Tsanni, said the manner in which stakeholders’ role is clarified leaves no ambiguity for any confusion, saying, “Therefore, we hope that we are on the right path to peaceful and credible elections in 2019. Consequently, I am hoping that the general society will realise the urgent need to support the media in its onerous task of contributing its quota towards a credible election and other issues of national development.

“Writing the code is one thing, making it work is another thing. In essence, creating awareness is important as well as implementation of the provisions of the code.”A representative of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Oluwole Uzzi, said INEC was involved in the first Code of Election Coverage and would give more commitment to make it work this time around, affirming, “We will help in disseminating it. When we get the copies we will ensure compliance of the code due to our bilateral relationships. Big thanks to IPC.”Other participants were General Secretary, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mrs. Victoria Ibanga, Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, among others.


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