It is no longer a thing of doubt that Nigerians will go to polls early next year (2023), to elect a new set of political leaders that will handle the affairs of the country, under the next political dispensation. Already, the various Agencies responsible for the conduct of Elections and those involved in other major activities including the major stakeholders, appear not to be leaving any stone unturned, to ensure the success of the elections. That is why we must commend the organizers of this form (workshop) for this important gathering which is very apt. Obviously; the media has a crucial role to play towards the success of elections. In all parts of the world, Democratic elections are almost impossible without the media. For the purposes of emphasis and clarifications, it is necessary to explain that the media as an agent of mass communication acts as a veritable link between the government and the governed. Media, including the electronic, Print, Social Media (New Media) and Traditional media, enhance public enlightenment, communication and entertainment.

The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary simply defined the Media as “the main ways that large numbers of people receive information and entertainment” Of course, the members of the public have the tendency of believing and accepting whatever they get from the media. That is why the importance of the media can never be over stressed, in terms of dissemination of information and subsequent feedback mechanism associated with it. In this period of election the media has the responsibility to monitor developments. This task starts with the media and its practitioners being abreast with the basic preparations for the general elections. In doing this, the media should understand the appropriate rules and regulations guiding the conduct of elections at all levels. They should also be conversant with the necessary information and data emanating from the Agencies Incharge of the elections.

Similarly the media should study the codes and methods of operations as it affects the elections. As the watchdog of the society, the media owes it a duty to the electorate to ensure that there is transparency during the polls.

The starting points however, is the education of the public. As public educators, media practitioners should engage the electorate and sensitize them on their civic responsibilities. Grass root publicity is a major factor in enhancing successful elections in the society. According to Wikipedia, it is the crucial duty of the media to educate voters on how to exercise their democratic rights. This can be realized when the media reports effectively on the developments of an election campaign. The media obviously provides a platform for the political parties and their candidates to communicate their messages to the masses. Thus, the success of any electoral process highly depends on the activities of the media towards the elections. Prior to the main elections the media practitioners should familiarize themselves with the electoral functions, position of the following centers, details of the candidates for the various positions, the Logo and Insignia of the political parties amongst others. These are some of the basic facts that would enhance the performances of the Journalists during the elections.

One of the major challenges faced by the media practitioners is their conduct during the monitoring of election. It is very important to observe the principles of neutrality and objectivity. Media practitioners must resist the temptation of playing into the hands of politicians and security Agencies. A journalist must know the right thing and do it at the right time. It is important for a professional on election duties to carry out more observation than talking.

Carefulness is of great essence at this stage. Early warning Signals must be highlighted without sentiments and biases. It is the patriotic duty of the media to ensure peaceful and non-violent elections. In reporting election matters, try as much as possible to give equal opportunity to all the registered political parties. Also have a balanced assessment of all the candidates while at the same time, encouraging gender balancing.
For the media and its practitioners to perform well in this forthcoming general election they must exhibit high level of ethical standards. Media has its ethics which must be strictly adhered to Journalists owe it a duty to carry out their responsibilities with credibility, enhance accountability and doing things that are in conformity with the laws of the land. Part of this enormous duty is to influence political agenda and create a conducive environment for reach discussions, Debates, Public voices and Opinions. In all these however, professionalism and accuracy must be maintained. Care must equally be taken for the media not to run into the problem of announcing election results. Monitoring of vote counting is essential, but not to fall into the temptation of breaching the law as it affects results declaration.
For a successful outing during the general elections, the media and its practitioners should ensure that there is fairness in the process, efficiency and probity. It is not out of place to scrutinize the electoral process itself and the electoral management. In carrying out these tasks; you must avoid hate speeches, inflammatory languages and unguarded utterances. Be factual on your reportage. Do not rely on the social media (New Media). The risk is that most social media operators are not professionals and as such, do not always adhere to journalistic standards and ethics.

The Nigerian Media code of Election Converage adopted on the 30th day of October, 2014 by some major key media bodies in the country, has remained a special guide to the practitioners. The National Media bodies that produced the code include Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), NAWOJ, RATTAWU and International Press Centre (IPC).

The code recognizes the underpinning principles of:
The promotion of the right of citizens to freely express themselves and have unfettered access to information on the electoral process.
The protection of the right of the media to freely access and truthfully disseminate information on the electoral processes.
The promotion of the right of the media access by parties, candidates and under-represented groups
The promotion of democratic norms and values.

The code makes it abundantly clear that the government shall abide by institutional, regulatory and legal frameworks requiring equitable access to the media by parties and candidates. Also the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shall provide information and materials to the media to enable them carry out their professional duties during elections.
Let it be noted that the success of the general elections in Nigeria is the Joint responsibility of all-the electorates, the political parties, the media, security agencies and other stakeholders.

The media must not shy away from its social responsibilities at this delicate but crucial period in the life of the Nigerian Nation.

Chief (Dr) Fidel Onyeneke Ksc, JP is a media relations consultant, and a former chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Imo State.


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