A seasoned journalist and former Presidential aide on public affairs, Mr Bolaji Adebiyi has called on media organisations to adequately fund their political desk and take good care of their political correspondents that will cover 2019 general election to prevent them from being induced by the political class.
He also advocated that journalists should be abreast and have deep knowledge of provisions of legal framework of the Electoral Processes especially the 1999 Constitution, Electoral Act 2010 as amended, INEC guidelines and constitutions of various political parties.
The Senior media professional stated this in Abeokuta, Ogun state while presenting a paper at a two-day Capacity Building Media Workshop for Political Correspondents organized by the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos.
Adebiyi, Editor of This Day newspapers, noted that reports by political journalists could cause election conflicts if they lack knowledge of the legal instruments.
Adebiyi said, “generally politicians tend to do anything to achieve their objective of attaining power. They, therefore, play a lot of games, including deliberately misleading the populace. A reporter would be susceptible to the antics of the politician if he does not have adequate knowledge of the legal frame work of the electoral process”.
“Many reporters have this challenge of lack of clarity of report largely because they are not conversant with the rules of the contest. The inadequate knowledge of the legal framework of the electoral process has affected the capacity of several reporters to give an analytical report that could explain electoral events to the reading public”.
“Inadequate Finance has been a big issue for some time, and it appears to be worsening. Money is required for training, preparing and sending reporters for coverage of elections”.
He said, “In a big country like Nigeria with 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and 774 local governments with over 8,809 wards and 119,973 polling units a news medium coverage of a general elections could be financially tasking. For the big media organisations with correspondents in the states of the federation the challenge is mitigated. But how many local governments and wards can a correspondent possibly cover?”
Adebiyi lamented that reporters who report out of station hardly have enough cash for transportation, accommodation and news gathering that would definitely affect the quality of coverage and reports.
The seasoned journalist also urged political reporters to be wary of their security agents.
His words, “finally, the last challenge is that of security of the reporter, particularly in areas prone to violence and conflicts. Reporters are known to have fallen victim of violence during elections and they, therefore, tend to be cautious in their coverage by avoiding conflict zones”.
“There is also the problem of overzealousness of security agents who at times clash with reporters covering elections. Conflict between reporters and security agents arise largely during collation of results and when very important personalities (VIP) visit polling areas”.
In another paper, Mr. Jide Ojo, an election expert and public affairs analyst took participants on Integrating socio-economic and human index development data into political reporting ahead 2019 elections and Reckoning with accountability and transparency issues in election reporting.
Ojo advised that political reporters should engage in agenda setting for contestants in 2019 polls as contained in Section 14 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution that would address people’s socio-economic and human development needs.
The resource person stressed the need for journalists to set agenda for contestants around critical issues such as decay educational system as well as inadequate and failing infrastructure, rather than reporting irrelevant issues around contestants that could not improve welfare of the masses.
Also speaking, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Director of International Press Centre (IPC), said the workshop was targeted at improving capacity of political reporters/correspondents from the Lagos and south west axis to enable them effectively and successfully cover the 2019 general election.
Arogundade said, “the idea of the training, the first of which took place in Abuja on October 19 and 20, 2018, derives from the recognition of the important role that journalists on the political beat play in the dissemination of political information”.
The Director opined that by reporting politics day-to-day, by covering the activities of the political parties, by providing information to enable citizens make informed choices during elections, by informing on the activities of the election management body and by informing on outcomes of surveys and or opinion polls during campaigns, it means that the political reporter remains the heart beat of political journalism.
He said, “however, for the political reporter to be a healthy heartbeat of political journalism and by extension, election reporting, he or she must have his/her skills constantly honed so it could disseminate information that adds value to the conduct of credible elections”.
“In the context of modern day journalism, the political reporter cannot afford not to be able to use data to disseminate sensible electoral information. He/she cannot afford not to factor the human and social element into election reporting. Crucially too, he/she cannot afford not to be conflict sensitive or ignore the ethical and professional imperatives that underline good journalism”, he stated.
Two other papers are expected to be delivered by Mr. Taiwo Obe, founder of Journalism Clinic and veteran journalist, which shall focus on Covering the political space using digital tools and apps.
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