2023: Be conflict Sensitive While Reporting Elections, Editor Tells Journalists

By Victor Oluwasegun

Journanists that are likely to cover the February 2023 general elections have been told to be wary and sensitive.

According to a top media practitioner, reporters are endangered species during elections, and there is a need to adopt some proactive measures before, during and after the elections, as conduct can determine reporters’ safety in the field.

Cross section of participants on day-2 of INEC, NUJ and CDD workshop for media and other stakeholders for the North-Central Zone

Besides, there are ways to apply conflict-sensitivity skills that may forestall violence during and after elections, the INEC resource person said.

Nariru Mikail Abubakar, Editor -in-Chief of Daily Trust, who spoke on sensitive reporting in elections, on the day 2 of the capacity building of the training, organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ and the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, puts it succinctly for the Commission.

Cross section of participants on day-2 of INEC, NUJ and CDD workshop for media and other stakeholders for the North-Central Zone

Abubakar, who said 2023 election “is going to be interesting” noted that there are three things journalists need to do during the coverage of the elections

“These are some of the sensitive things we need to do that will serve the community and the country .

“The Feb 2023 elections is an important water shed in the annals of Nigerians democracy. The All Progressives Congress which ousted the People Democratic Party eight years ago through the ballot, is in for a referendum as President Buhari and many of his governor’s will be leaving the stage”, hesaid.

According to him, the elections is coming amidst security challenges, banditry and humanitarian crises.

“There are lost terrirories, militarised zones,
hamanitaroan crises, IDPs in many places.
There is a desire to distrupt the process by IPOB and co. There are attacks on INEC/ other symbols of authority”, he added.

He said there are conflict identifiers, and these could be discovered through positions, interests and needs…are there interests which help to identify the needs? Some say they are being maginalised, there are allegations of overtaxation, killing of cattle. In the South East, some of these claims may be true, he said.

” But the way of ventilation is wrong. The context allows you to understand why they are taking up arms against the government
The Boko Haram political ideology allows us to understand why they behave in certain ways.”

He noted thatJournalists have certain roles in the 2023 elections in order to avoid conflict.

“This is need for voter education, follow up and update on elections process,” he added that the journalist “is a platform for candidate/voters to interact and to investigate the process to expose wrongdoings. “They must ensure rules are followed and results are timely announced
Are the court rulings followed? The reporters have to allow the voters to voice out their demands and opinions.

“All these are important and they help to prevent conflict. It also helps to make the election free and fair and prevent conflict.”

JOURNALISTS’ ROLE IN ELECTIONS

While further speaking about the role of Journalists in the forthcoming elections, Abubakar said value must be given.

“Accuracy in reporting is necessary, fairness, impartiality, responsibility. Sourcing: how credible is our source. How diverse is our newsroom content / sources?”

He appealled to journalists to take local elections more seriously that even the presidential as many locals take it seriously and these prevents conflict.

“It’s important to be fair in reports and do solution-based reporting because we’re also part of the community hence we must be impartial.

“In preparation for covering election.
Inform yourself with relevant electoral laws,
party manifestos and candidates blueprints;
understand the candidates well, strength and weaknesses–update hostile environment training and draw coverage plans

“During campaigns, report for the people the dealings with actors, reckless/inflammatory comments, monitor and handle social media. Follow the process, scrutinize election body;
It’s a journalist responsibility to fact check and report truth.

“Support the INEC and don’t allow fake news’ to fester so the credibility of the process will not be jeopadised.”

Abubakar said on the Election day, there must have been preparation for covering the election.

“Prepare yourself -logistically. Visit diverse areas to have a sense of what’s happening? Check security, bias from officials- disenfranchisement can cause crisis.”

On post election, he noted that a journalist should “be keeping things calm,” and that while announcing the result. “Follow the tally and manage emotions while dealing with complaints.”

On personal security his advice to reporters: “Safety first-get ready as things may get messy! Have all the relevant security numbers, know their locations in case of emergency. Let your editors and colleagues know your location in case of post election violence

“Have separate mobile numbers if necessary. Always carry your identity card and carry a power bank if you can. Try not to expose yourself. Understand the location and study the surrounding before you start filming/interviews.

END

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