Report on media coverage of election launched
The report of media coverage of the 2015 election in the month of February was launched in Lagos with the media applauded for devoting the highest percentage of the reporting of issues to campaigns, which it argued clearly showed an attempt to bring the attention of voters to what the candidates and parties stand for.
It was nonetheless suggested that the media should do more of this in the next couple of days and weeks.
The monitoring of the reports of these selected newspapers and online platforms was jointly carried out by the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) and the International Press Council (IPC) with the support of the United Nations Development Programme’s Democratic Governance for Development Project (UNDP-DGDIII) and its partners including the EU, the UK AID, the Canadian Department for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFTAD) and the UNDP
Reading the overview of the findings at the press conference, the Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade said that, “It is however regrettable that political and electoral conflicts had the better part of media attention than voter education which really should have been at the core of reporting for the month given the contentious issues of PVCs, TVCs and card readers.”
Arogundade noted that as the elections finally draw closer, there is an increasing dependence by the citizens on the media to provide information on political parties’ activities, the candidates, INEC and related stakeholders in the electoral process. This call to duty on the part of the media, he maintained, could be heard everywhere.
“The expectation remains the same: That the media would provide credible information to enable citizens make informed choices; that the media would be professional and ethical; that the media would give equitable access to parties, candidates and underrepresented groups; that the media would abide with extant electoral regulations and institutional codes; that the media would hold the election management body – INEC – accountable to the public and that the media would shun hate speech and inciting comments so as to help promote the desired peaceful atmosphere for the conduct of fair and credible elections.”
He stated that the monitoring of select national and regional newspapers, online media and social media platforms which commenced in November last year was aimed at gauging and situating media reportage of the elections on the following basis: the Sources of stories – How credible and diverse are they? Who are the providers of information; who makes the news? Who do the media project most; Conflict Sensitivity – What degrees of early warning signals were highlighted and were the reports capable of inflaming passion; Language – Are offensive words being used? Are hate speeches and inciting statements being projected in media reportage; Issues – What issues are being projected and how well? And Electoral Management Body (EMB) – What is the public opinion and to what extent is the EMB being held accountable.
On the coverage of political parties, it was observed that the postponement of the elections slowed down political activities and inversely, media reportage on elections.
“Whereas there were 1226 stories using political parties as sources in the national dailies and 806 for the regional in January 2015, February 2015 witnessed 929 stories and 516 stories respectively. The indications from this is that media reportage of elections is dependent on political activities; press statements, briefings and programmes of which the two biggest party have an edge over others.
Based on this observation, it was recommended that the newspapers should be conscious of the rivalry and hostility that exist between the PDP and APC so that the media does not become a tool in escalating the conflicts in the contest to discredit the electoral process.
On gender coverage of election, it was noted that report on female politicians have slightly increased across board hoping that the trend will be sustained, and would not be displaced as political activities gather steam towards the elections proper.
It was however suggested that newspapers should put in place policies that create more access to female candidates in particular and female politicians in general.
In the category of reporting under-represented groups, it was recommended that the media should reach out to the under-represented groups to capture their views on relevant issues bearing in mind that People Living With Disabilities (PLWD) are about 22 million persons in the country.
For conflict sensitive reporting, the report stated that it was quite welcome that there was a reduction in the use of hates speech and the publication of inciting advertorials.
“It is particularly instructive to note that the regional newspapers did not use any sensational headline, hate speech or incitements when compared with the national ones. It is strongly recommended that the media should completely shun hate speech, as they do not help the citizens to understand the issues at stake. It is not part of the electoral duty of the media to be used as propaganda tools by warmongers.
Under the reportage of electoral body, it was stated that the national and regional media during the period under reference improved on its performance in relation to making INEC accountable to the public.
“The online media in particular published more reports on responses than other issues in relation to the election management body.”
It was therefore recommended that the media sustain reportage on issues affecting INEC, and beyond reporting, also conduct more special interviews with officials of INEC and other investigations that would help clarify contentious issues. “This is especially imperative as the elections beckon,” it noted.
In summary, the findings showed that the monitored newspapers performed better in most of the thematic areas covered by the monitoring.
“Indeed, we noticed that the voices of ordinary citizens were better projected as sources. We hope the trend will continue in the next decisive days and weeks.”
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