Abubakar Yunusa, Abuja
As the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria draw near, journalists have been charged to be change agents through fair, accurate, ethical, and inclusive coverage of electoral processes to bring about positive changes in the country and beyond.
The point was made in various presentations at a one-day round table discussion on “The Role of Mass Media in Ensuring a free and fair election for sustainable Democracy” for selected journalists drawn from the electronic and print media practitioners, held in Abuja on Monday.
The training is organised by the JICA Alumni Association of Nigeria (JAAN) in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
In his welcome remark, JAAN President, Mr.Ahmed Agbrankhe, said the decision to organised the roundtable discussion stemmed from the regard for the press as an engine room for peaceful mobilisation towards national development.
According to him, media has a very big role to play “because for each one of you here, whatever you dish out to the public, whether true or not, there’s a tendency to believe that the story and if it’s not, it would create a negative impact on the society.
“We look at the critical issues and see how we can contribute our little quarter to the development of our dear country, Nigeria.
“The election is not a do-or-die affair and governance is not what you go into because you want to make profits, you must have the will to serve the interest of the country and the people you want to lead”.
He, however, advised Nigerians to think about themsellves, country and the future, stressing “votes are your power, and if you get it wrong, you are doomed forever”.
Also at the event, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Deputy Director, Voter Education, and Publicity, Chukwuemeka Ugboaja, urged the media to avoid the breaking news syndrome.
He said some of the mainstream media are gradually gravitating towards online journalism with the attendant quest for breaking news, which is sometimes not properly verified and processed.
“The media must be circumspect in casting headlines and the thirst for sensational headlines. Sometimes, people look at the headlines and conclude without looking at the body of the report. The media must avoid tilting stories toward religious, zonal, and ethnic narratives
“The media must find the right balance in casting headlines and also must avoid deliberate falsehood aimed at drawing traffic to sites.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will continue to partner with the media, not only as a key stakeholder in the electoral process but also as a viable tool for combating misinformation, fake news, and malicious falsehood,” he noted.