2023: INEC, NUJ Train Journalists, Caution Against Sensationalism In Election Reporting.

Source: Oswald Agwu, Abakaliki.

Journalists have been warned against uncertain breaking uncertain news and unverified reports capable of truncating the success of the 2023 general elections in Nigeria.

The charge was part of outcome of a one day capacity building Workshop for journalists on Conflict sensitive reporting and 2023 General Election.

The Workshop series for practicing journalists in Southeast, Nigeria was organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission, in collaboration with the Nigeria Union of Journalists.

Speaking during the Ebonyi event held Tuesday in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital, the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education, Barr. Festus Okoye, described the media as a critical stakeholder in the electoral process.

He maintained that for the Media and its practitiiners to live up to its constructive role in advancing the electoral process, it must avail itself of basic working knowledge of the constitutive constitutional, legal and regulatory instruments that guide and underpin the work of INEC.

Emphasizing that the Commission's work and the conduct of electoral business has national security implications, Okoye admonished that reporting elections needed to be handled with an eye on conflict sensitivity, national peace and cohesion. He further urged journalists to avoid breaking news syndrome, sensationalism and tilting their stories towards religious, zonal and ethnic narratives.

Okoye added: "the media must hold a balance between all the contending parties and candidates...

"The media must be circumspect in casting headlines and the thirst for sensational headlines.

"The media must avoid deliberate falsehood aimed at drawing traffic to sites.

"Deliberate falsehood aimed at drawing traffic to particular sites is a huge challenge in strategic communication..."

Okoye, while pledging INEC's continued partnership with the media in combating misinformation and fake news, stressed that the Commission believes that the antidote to fake news and misinformation is greater openness and transparency, which he assured would continue to guide their actions and processes in presiding over the 2023 general elections.

The NUJ National President, Comrade Chris Isiguzo, in his address maintained that the cardinal objective of the media was to promote democracy and development. He pledged that the media would continue to collaborate with INEC in ensuring that democracy works properly in the country.

Isiguzo, represented at the event by the Union's National Secretary, Comrade Shuaibu Usman Leman, advocated for better welfare, unhindered access to information and guaranteed security for journalists in the course of their jobs.

"It should be noted however, that in the course of their work over the years, many journalists have either lost their lives or had sustained various degree of injuries or had their equipment damaged especially during election times.

"Nothing or little is done to ensure accountability for attacks on journalists and the media in Nigeria, thus the culture of impunity for such attacks persist.

"It is important for stakeholders to work towards minimizing these" Isiguzo advised

Delivering a lecture on the Role of the Media in the Conduct of Peaceful Elections, Isiguzo observed that the role of the media in peace promotion or conflict escalation has been heightened by a number of factors, including ownership and funding, editorial policies and regulatory agencies. He prescribed peace and development journalism as the panacea to national conflicts.

"Since the role of the media in Nigeria's emerging democracy is central, media professionals must maintain the highest possible standards in their practice.

"It is proper to suggest peace journalism as an instrument in promoting peace and reducing dysfunctional conflict to the barest minimum" Isiguzo submitted.

The INEC Director for Legal Drafting and Clearance, Mrs Tonia Ndu, represented by the head of Legal Unit, INEC, Ebonyi State, Barr. Ibrahim Obiahu, while taking journalists through the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 said the outcomes of the 2023 general election would be transmitted electronically from the various polling units.

In another Lecture delivered by the Commission's director of ICT, represented by Victor Edward, of the department in Ebonyi, the journalists were further exposed to the INECs new technologies for the 2022 general election.

The Chairman, Ebonyi State Council of the NUJ, comrade Tony Nwizi in a welcome address appreciated the INEC and the Union's National body for the initiative. He expressed optimism that the workshop would further enhance cooperation and collaboration between journalists in the State and the INEC towards delivering a peaceful, credible and safe election next year.