With less than two months to the 2019 general election in Nigeria, media practitioners have been urged to guard against publishing news stories that could fuel violence in the country.
The advice was given at a workshop organised by the International Press Centre, Lagos with the support of European Union Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN).
In his welcome remarks, Lanre Arogundade, Director of the International Press Centre, Lagos, stated that the workshop is to equip journalists with requisite skills to report professionally in the pre-election, election and post-election period. Arogundade also added that the media have a critical agenda-setting role to support the integrity and credibility of elections.
“Not only must they take a lead role in ensuring that citizens are adequately mobilized, they should also ensure that the entire process is open to public scrutiny. In the above regard, it is expected that this training will help participants to understand and imbibe the principles of fairness, diversity and objectivity in reporting the electoral process," Arogundade said.
Speaking at the workshop, Professor Muyiwa Popoola of Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo State, noted that the media, through the use of language and choice of words in reportage, tend to promote violence. He, however, urged journalists and media organisations to be sensitive in publishing reports that have the tendency of resulting in conflict as the 2019 elections approach.
“Conflict-sensitive reporting gives the media the latitude to cover all aspects of a conflicting issue, but it emphasises and gives prescriptions on careful use of language in reporting the conflict, in such a way that the reportage will focus on de-escalation of the conflict, rather than the escalating of conflict to violence and disorderliness," he said.
Highlighting various ways media organisations can avoid fueling conflict with their reports, the Professor of Journalism, Communication and Media Studies said: “Avoid only reporting what divides the sides in the conflict-prone political environment. Endeavour to ask the opposing sides certain questions that may reveal common ground, so that the report could focus on interests or goals shared by opposing parties, maintain balance and be temperate in the use of words".
Other facilitators at the workshop included veteran journalist, Taiwo Obe, who advised journalists to be content developers and urged them to acquaint themselves with digital media tools. David Ajikobi, Head of AfricaCheck Nigeria, also urged journalists to verify every information before publishing, especially in this pre-election period.
He added that the work of media organisations go beyond publishing, as they are tasked with the duty of ensuring that information sent to the public is subject to verification for truth.
The training for journalists, organised by IPC and funded through Component 4b: Support to the Media of the EU-SDGN project, is the fourth of its kind for journalists across the country.