Media stakeholders, meeting at a one-day workshop, have emphasized the importance of self-regulation to ensure professionalism and compliance with ethical standards in the coverage of electoral processes by the media as well as to build credibility and restore public trust in the media.
They however acknowledged the absence of strong enforcement mechanisms in the Code but stressed that as a voluntary instrument, its goal is not to punish journalists or media organisations but to provide a frame of reference to guide the sector during electoral processes and beyond and thereby contribute to the improvement of professional standards and media conduct in election coverage.
These were part of and other recommendations were made at a Stakeholders’ Engagement on the Review of the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage, held on October 14, 2022, in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.
The International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria, the implementing partner of Component 4 (Support to Media) of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria – Phase 2 (EUSDGN II) project, convened the one-day stakeholders’ engagement.
The event brought together media stakeholders to assess the use of and the level of compliance with the Code by the media community. It was also to discuss areas of the Code requiring possible review based on recent developments and the experience from its application over the last four years.
The meeting was attended by editors and reporters from the print, broadcast and online media; the leadership of umbrella media professional bodies/associations; representatives of media regulatory bodies and leaders of civil society organisations working in the media sector.
IPC’s Executive Director, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, delivered the welcome remarks followed by the Executive Director, of Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Dr. Akin Akingbulu, the other implementing partner of Component 4 of EU-SDGN II project.
Participants endorsed the Code as not a stand-alone instrument but a complement to other instruments, including laws and regulations as well as the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, which are all intended to help the country to achieve the key objectives of equity and fairness in media coverage of political activities.
They agreed to update the Code, among other things, by specifically highlighting the role of law enforcement and security agencies, particularly their duty to ensure a safe and conducive environment for journalists and other media practitioners to carry out their duties. They therefore called on law enforcement and security agencies to ensure that every attack on journalists and other media practitioners is promptly and properly investigated and that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
Participants noted that for the Code to be effective, the different stakeholder groups involved in elections and media regulation need to play their roles effectively in order to create an enabling environment for the media to perform its professional and social obligations during electoral processes. They identified the different stakeholders as Government, including all levels of government as well as law enforcement and security agencies, political parties, the Election Management Body, namely INEC and the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs), and Civil Society Organizations, saying that they need to create the conditions under which the media can do its work safely.
They suggested that beyond disseminating the Code to media stakeholders, further engagements should be held with them to ensure that those to whom it applies are fully aware of their responsibilities and to enable an assessment of the internal and institutional challenges limiting compliance and implementation, as well as how to overcome such challenges.
They called on all media organisations to ensure that all political parties and candidates in elections are given equitable, fair and balanced coverage and that opposition political parties or candidates are not denied access to or the ability to use Government-owned or controlled media on the same basis as the ruling political party or its candidates.
Participants called on all media organisations to refrain from publishing misinformation and disinformation and to promptly correct any inaccurate, misleading or false information and to publish the correction with the same prominence with which the original report was published, whether inadvertently or otherwise.
Among those who participated at the meeting and who delivered goodwill messages were the Secretary General of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Mr. Iyobosa Uwugiaren; the Executive Secretary of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Mr. Feyi Smith; the Executive Secretary of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), Dr. Yemisi Bamgbose; the President of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs. Ladi Bala; the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council, Mr. Amos Etuk, who represented the NUJ National President, Mr. Chris Isiguzo; the Chairman of the Radio Television Theatre and Arts Workers’ Union (RATTAWU), Uyo State Chapter, and Mr. Mfon Ekpenyo, who represented the National President, Mr. Tsanni Kabir Garba.
Participants expressed gratitude to the European Union for providing the resources for the project under which the activity is being undertaken as well as for its support to the promotion of free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.