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Hate speech… Experts insist on review of Nigerian Media Code of Election

By Margaret Mwantok (Lagos)and Gordi Udeajah (Umuahia)
13 March 2018   |   4:23 am
Media practitioners have canvassed the review of Nigerian Media Code of Election to guide against hate speech. They made the appeal in Lagos at a two-day meeting of International Press Centre...

Some participants at the forum

Media practitioners have canvassed the review of Nigerian Media Code of Election to guide against hate speech. They made the appeal in Lagos at a two-day meeting of International Press Centre (IPC), organised with the support of European Union (EU). The focus was on section four of the Code, which states that hate speech and other forms of incitement could lead to violence and threaten the democratic fabric of a society, and urged journalists to use temperate language in reporting electoral processes among other guidelines.

In his keynote address titled ‘The Imperative of Special Media Code of Ethics for Election Coverage,’ Chief Executive Officer, Channels Television, Mr. John Momoh, argued that the media’s capacity to be the society’s watchdog would be enhanced by its adherence to the Code of Election Coverage, noting that a forthright media is essential to the sustainability of a democratic society.

“It is important that journalists are not harassed, intimidated or sacked in the performance of their jobs,” said Mrs. Adeola Olumeyan, who represented Momoh, Chairman, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON).

President of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Waheed Odusile. said that the union would set up a monitoring team on adherence to the Cole of Election Coverage, and argued in favour of a law that would regulate entry into journalism practice, saying, “We need to say those who are not qualified should not be allowed to operate. The editors and media owners need to be reined in to ensure that they do not employ the wrong people.”

Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma, in a goodwill message, said the forum was in line with the ministry’s component four of the project implementation arrangement, which aims to support the media to effectively discharge its function in compliance with democratic principles and standards.

“Let me stress that the engagement of professionals that will ensure fairness in the coverage of the electoral processes and 2019 elections to democratic governance in Nigeria is very important in terms of transfer of skills and knowledge in the area of ethical media coverage and the process leading to it.”

Press Secretary the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the commission was concerned, as emotions seem to have taken over factual journalism. He, however, said INEC had remained focused despite challenges of wrong coverage, stressing that the commission would continue to support IPC, saying they were on the same page.

Oyekanmi also noted, “It is important to emphasise the welfare of journalists as we discuss credible reporting.”

Earlier in his remarks, Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, said the forum was an important milestone in the quest to ensure the credibility and integrity of the media Code of Election, as credible media serves as catalyst of acceptable elections.

He said journalists’ responsibilities during electoral processes were enormous, as they performed all the core functions of the media simultaneously.

“They serve the political system, provide information for citizens, hold government accountable, provide voice to the voiceless, monitor campaigns among others,” he added.

With the conflicting nature of politicking and the tendency for information or mis-information overload, Arogundade stressed that journalists at elections must carry out all functions with utmost care.

The experts who gathered in Lagos for two days to review ‘The 2015 Code of Election Coverage’, launched four months to the 2015 election. It was endorsed by seven media industry stakeholders, namely Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), Radio, Television Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU), National association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and International Press Centre (IPC).

In a related development, South East Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) chapter or Zone C meeting, which coincided with Abia State’s NUJ Council’s 5th triennial delegates conference saw the return of its Chairman, Comrade John Emejor, a director in the state’s Ministry of Information and other officers by a unanimous affirmation of members. The process that led to their being return was presided over by NUJ’s Zone C Chairman, Comrade Chris Isiguzo, and also in the presence of his Zone D (North Central) counterpart, Comrade Wilson Bako, and former Kogi State NUJ Council Chairman, Comrade Ali Atabor, who was introduced as Comrade Isiguzo’s Campaign Director General for Isiguzo’s bid for upcoming national election.

Isiguzo commended the state’s council for returning the executives and still sued for their support while urging the new executives to give members desired leadership. Comrade Emejor pledged to make members’ welfare his priority after expressing elation to serve another three-year tenure.

Zone C meeting had ‘The Media, Hate Speech and the 2019 Polls’ as theme, followed by a nine-point communiqué signed by the Zone’s Secretary, Comrade Kenneth Ofoma. In it the Zone condemned the bill proposing death penalty for hate speech offenders by the National Assembly and called for the bill’s immediate withdrawal.

The zone also wants the Federal Government to conclude the processes of nomination/inauguration of INEC Commissioner from the south east Zone without further delay and urged contractors handling projects across the zone, especially roads contractors to expedite activities. It also frowned at the incessant harassment, intimidation and arrest of journalists by security agencies in the course of discharging their statutory duties.

To the southeast states’ Houses of Assembly, the Zonal NUJ Chapter urged them, “to consider voting in favor of local government’s financial and administrative autonomy in the ongoing constitutional amendment to strengthen that tier of government for more productivity.”

It also condemned the continuous killing of innocent citizens by suspected herdsmen across the country and charged security agencies to rise up to the challenge. It urged governments at all levels to invest in the construction of more irrigation to boost food production in the zones.

Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, was applauded for intervening on critical infrastructure projects in the state and for promoting small and medium scale industries and human capacity building for Abia youths.

The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Joseph Iloh presented a paper centred on conducting credible election, which he posited begins with Voter Registration and defined it as “the basic foundation of any election in a true democracy.”

He urged those who have attained 18 years of age to register to become eligible to vote in next year’s election, which is 344 days away from last Friday, the REC advised those who have registered and have obtained their PVCs to keep them in a cool and dry place to prevent them from inclement condition that would make them to be rejected by Card Reader on poling day.