By Maureen Ikpeama
A senior lecturer and Head , Department of Mass Communication, Renaissance University, Ugbawka, Enugu State, Maxwell Ngene, has charged journalists to avoid sensational reportage of election matters even in the absence of motivational stimulation in their workplaces,
He gave the charge on Thursday in a lecture he delivered at a Two-Day 2022 Media summit/Awards, organised by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), ,South East (Zone C) at Lyon De Gold Hotel, Enugu.
Delivering the lecture on the topic: “Role of the mass media in the promotion of credible elections and smooth transitions in Nigeria”, he said that ” all media outfits in the country, whether print, broadcast or online news sources are expected to contribute their various quota towards ensuring a crisis-free election and a credible transition of power.
“The radio and television stations across the country are expected to utilise their resources for public education and enlightenment purposes. This can be done by publicising the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) election timetable for the conduct of the 2023 general election. Other pertinent issues like educating the electorates to shun money politics, thuggery, electoral violence, and vandalism can be articulated and advanced as part of voters’ education campaigns. Not to conscientiously do so is neither healthy nor desirable.
“A conscious effort must be made to grant equal access and equal time to all the political parties before and during the elections. By this, we expect a fair, accurate and balanced reporting. This is usually problematic in climes where political stories are paid for and censored before they are eventually approved for airing or publication.
“The reporting of election-related information or news must be guided by high professional and ethical considerations. In this regard, we advise that consideration must be given to the coverage of activities of the few female politicians contesting elections on all parts of the country. The core ingredients of ethical reporting revolve on concepts;”
Dr. Ngene urged Journalists to continue to harp on the need for national unity as an indispensable necessity.
“We must refrain from looking at our country from the ethnic, tribal, and religious prism.”, he said
On the role of the media at elections, Ngene said that the media can play a leading role in the oncoming 2023 general elections in Nigeria.
Ngene noted that the mass media have played and are capable of playing profound roles in the promotion of credible elections, smooth as well as peaceful transitions of power in Nigeria.
“Historically, the Nigerian mass media are known to be vibrant, aggressive, courageous, and vigorous in the performance of its constitutional obligations as the ‘fourth estate of the realm.’ – an appellation given to the press because of its presumed importance and ranking after the three arms of government namely the executive, legislature and the judiciary.
“The Nigerian media, particularly, the print media, played a crucial role in the campaign not just for, the attainment of independence but for the enthronement of democracy, democratic consolidation, democratic stability and good governance.
“The Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) as a professional body and a responsible trade union has been active stakeholders in the Nigeria democratic struggles. It had been in the vanguard of checking and curtailing arbitrary power as well as promoting democratic ideals and values necessary for securing a democratic society.
“The union recognised the importance of democracy and it’s pride of place in triggering good governance and accelerated national development.
“The NUJ participated actively in the fight against the Retired General Ibrahim Babangida-led military government over the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Chief M.K.O Abiola. It demanded that the winner of the said election should be sworn-in. It also played central role in ensuring a smooth transition of power from the Goodluck Jonathan’s government to that of Retired Gen Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
“This is because of the privileged position of the press in society and the enlightened positions and dispositions of her practitioners”.
Suggesting ways of holding politicians seeking to occupy political offices accountable, Ngene said: “We must ensure that we engage those seeking to occupy political offices by asking them critical questions. It is a way of holding them accountable as demanded of us as journalists by the Nigerian Constitution.”
“We must therefore strive to freely make available unconstrained forms of political communication and education necessary for increasing public knowledge of the issues at stake, candidates, and parties contesting the 2023 general elections.
“If as journalists, we perform in conformity with public expectations, it will lead to a positive change that would significantly benefit the general populace.
“The media, journalists, and broadcasters have a serious challenge in their hands and this challenge can be surmounted if we gird our loins together to put the nation on the path to glory.
“To successfully do this, we must act responsibly by jettisoning all forms of unethical conduct and heeding the advice of George Bush, a former American President who admonished that ‘ A society that worships money… is a society in peril”, Ngene said.