Media indifference linked to election vote loss of smaller political parties
This was part of the observations in ‘Media Monitoring Report of the Electoral Process,’ an analysis of trends in the reporting of the 2019 electoral process by 12 print/online newspapers for September, October, November and December 2018, published by International Press Centre (IPC).
According to the Director, IPC, Lanre Arogundade, media outlets during the period of electioneering did not give equitable coverage to these parties and their aspirants and candidates.
He said findings from the report reveal that only two political parties, All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got much of the coverage in the media, while 89 others were not well focused upon.
Arogundade made the disclosure at a media roundtable/public presentation of the report, and said more findings show that the combined coverage that APC and PDP got was 85 per cent, while the rest shared 25 per cent.
He added that it could be argued that this possibly reflects the strength of the two political parties, as and advised that efforts should have been made to cover and report the other political parties.
The report further reveals that the monitored 12 media outlets did not, during the period, give fair and equitable coverage to disadvantaged groups. Women, youths and persons living with disabilities were also poorly focused upon.
Findings show that men dominated the media space with 1,417 mentions, representing (50.61%). Women, on the other hand, got 102 mentions (at 3.54%), youth got 109 mentions (at 3.7%), while PLWDs got 33 mentions at 1.14%, which the IPC direct said means that some of the women, youths and people living with disabilities, especially those standing as aspirants and candidates, might not have been given opportunity of getting their issues across to the public.
“Some of the monitored media outlets did not show enough sensitivity to gender in the way and manner of reporting female aspirants,” he said. “Some used advert as news without clearly indicating that they were sponsored adverts. For example in November 2018, eight of the newspapers except The Guardian and the online only ones, published advertorial on the incumbent president and the ruling APC on their front pages headlined ‘NEXT LEVEL 2019: Buhari/Osinbajo’. Working for the greatest number, promoting president Buhari’s flag-off of the 2019 re-election campaigns, occupied more than half of the front pages of the newspapers.”
The Executive Director, Centre for Free Speech, Lagos, Richard Akinnola, who reviewed the report, bemoaned media practice towards commercialising news and other articles for publication/broadcast.
He said, “One noticeable feature that is common to this report is the concentration of reports on the big parties to the detriment of the smaller parties and this is emblematic of the mindset of the Nigerian media, whereby the new or the not-so prominent political parties are given scant mention. As a matter of fact, a presidential candidate of one of the supposed small parties complained about five years ago in a newspaper interview that financial demands of journalists in the coverage of his activities and campaigns impacted negatively in his media visibility.
“This, he said, “raises a very crucial point. As a matter of fact, if this report had covered the electronic media, the result of the research would have been worse because of the level of commercialisation of news in that sector.
“This aspect of the report poses a major challenge to the press and the responsibility of the press to the people. If we have to be real, political actors – candidates and parties alike – must have a heavy financial war chest for them to be well reported and projected in the media, as we have seen in this report.
“This is an issue which we have to critically address, otherwise, we are invariably shutting the doors against candidates who are not financially buoyant. To me, this is the main issue that resonates in this report. This has put the smaller parties in a disadvantaged position.”
Meanwhile, Arogundade, urged the media to continue to strive to abide with the provisions of the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage and some other relevant frameworks, including the Electoral Act obligating them to: “Give equitable access to parties and candidates; give equitable access to underrepresented group; be socially responsible; be ethical as well as avoid hate speech, and be conflict sensitive.”
He noted that it is expected that the media and INEC would step up enlightenment around voting so that no one is disenfranchised and commits any offence out of ignorance.
“This is the period the electorate need to be well informed about their duties and responsibilities during the elections,” the IPC director added.