Representatives of the German Foundation in Nigeria, the Konrad-Adenaeur-Foundation (KAS), Ms. Marija Peran and other stakeholders on Tuesday stressed the need to ensure the safety of journalists covering the 2023 general election.
They gave the floor in Abuja during the one-day capacity workshop on “Fact checking and safety of journalists during the 2023 general election”, which was held at the initiative of the KAS in cooperation with the Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID).
In her remarks, Ms. Peran pointed out that the German political foundation has been active in Nigeria for more than 20 years to promote democracy, good governance and the rule of law.
She said: “With Nigeria in its third decade of democratic consolidation and many complex conflicts threatening to tear the country apart, the Nigerian media is one of the country’s most powerful institutions. Its influence and reach should not be underestimated.
“Legislative reporting, an essential part of the function of the mass media, is an essential feature of parliamentary democracy. The idea behind this is that both the people and the government benefit from the reporting of the legislature.
“This specific reporting role encompasses multiple activities of the legislature, including the complex legislative process and debates on issues of public concern. Reporting on the processes of a legislature is a very responsible job and requires the skill and maturity required to undertake the job.
“The starting point for undertaking this task must be to understand not only the procedures and processes of the branches of government, but also the principles and challenges of governance in Nigeria.
“With general elections approaching, and with fake news and the growing importance of social media in shaping public opinion, while at the same time the safety of journalists is at stake, this shows us how relevant and timely it is to educate the accused with coverage of the upcoming ones general elections.
“That’s why we’re meeting here today. The 2023 general election is very critical and will determine the future of Nigeria. This means that effective media coverage will also be crucial. I encourage you to be the watchdogs of these elections and help strengthen Nigerian democracy.”
For her part, CJID Deputy Director Ms. Busola Ajibola spoke about the “intersection of media and democracy – with the fundamental thesis that journalism is indeed the soul of democracy”, explaining that the workshop aims to “broaden our insights into fact-checking as an essential part of election reporting and equipping journalists with safety tips ahead of the Nigeria 2023 election.
“One of the distinctive features of democracy, despite its well-known shortcomings, is the possibility of regular elections — a process whereby citizens can exercise accountability, rewarding good leaders by re-electing them and punishing bad leaders by voting them out. Or do without it altogether.
“But how well citizens exercise this power depends heavily on how well the media fulfills its informative role. And the question will then be whether we have played our guardian role sufficiently to foster rational public discourse that can lead to informed decisions and be reflected in the quality of citizens’ choice of representatives.
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“The Society finally passed the torch of accountability to journalists – with a request that we help hold those who hold power in trust for the public accountable – and report to them and not to any other entity.”
“But that job will be jeopardized if the fact is relegated throughout our reporting.” The job becomes even more difficult in a country where public officials mistakenly perceive accountability and transparency demands from journalists as antagonisms.
“They forget that journalists are just doing their job – as expected by society and required by the constitution. They try to harm journalists and trends show that these attacks increase in election cycles.
“In 2022 alone, our Press Attack Tracker at CJID documented 52 attacks on journalists. A large number of these attacks occurred during political rallies, where journalists were beaten, denied access or had their equipment damaged.
“As we approach the elections, CJID calls on the government, security agencies, political parties and all other stakeholders to commit to protecting journalists and ensuring their safety at all times. We want them to understand that their work is central to promoting democracy and protecting human rights.
“We also take this opportunity to call on tech giants to detox their platforms and algorithms from information glitches that may compromise the integrity of our elections or even engulf journalistic content that has passed strict gate-keeping processes,” he stressed.