By Peter Okolie
The Director of International Press Centre, Mr Lanre Arogundade, has advised editors and reporters in the country to discard their “political togas” and commit to democratic accountability reporting.
Arogundade gave the advice in his keynote address to the 2023 national biennial convention of the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) on Friday in Owerri.
He spoke on the theme, “Post 2023 election: Promoting professionalism for enhancement of democracy and good governance”.
He said that there were noticeable trends of the media coverage of the 2023 general elections as captured by the international press observatory.
According to him, the media generally made commendable effort to cover the elections, particularly the campaigns and voting.
“The broadcast media made commendable efforts to give the voters access to the candidates by organising debates,” Arogundade said.
He, however, argued that “a synchronised and united approach could have led to greater impact”.
Arogundade further said that in some cases, ownership and political interest of proprietors help to skew media coverage in favour of certain political parties in terms of prominence.
He said that unfortunately, some reporters, presenters, producers and editors usually become more political than the politicians by the way they exhibit their biases.
He also said that there were not much attention given to the inclusive issue of women, youths and persons with disability.
He argued that female politicians were under reported in Nigeria.
“There were question marks on the integrity of information mostly by spokespersons of politicians and candidates, who mostly operated on the social media,” he said.
Arogundade blamed politicians for lots of misinformation and disinformation centered on politics, religion, economy and social issues before and after the elections.
“The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) did not help matters with its arbitrary fines to alleged infractions of the broadcasting codes.
“The body mostly served as the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in its cases against the concerned broadcast stations,” he said.
He further said that the lack of enabling environment posed a big challenge as journalists were poorly resourced to cover the elections, while some of them on election duty were harassed and attacked.
In spite of the observations, Arogundade said that there was need to enhance democracy and good governance by being professional and fulfilling the media social responsibility.
“We must revisit the media agenda setting theory by defining whose agenda we really want to set.
“We must provide orientation and re-orientation, capacity building, and reorganisation of the newsrooms to develop a new corps of political reporters who take the beats seriously to become authoritaties and news sources themselves.
“We must return to the regime of proper gatekeeping, especially in the age of internet and social media,” Arogundade said.
He further urged editors and journalists to interrogate the campaign promises of the politicians and follow up on their implementation, using investigative and solution-driven methods.
Contributing, a professor of Mass Communication and former Commissioner for Information in Anambra, Prof. Stella Okunna, regretted the outcome of the role of the media during the elections.
“Things are not changing as we want them to.
“Journalists are still reporting elections along biased lines,” she said.
She also expressed the need for the media practioners to abide by the ethics of the profession.
Also, a former President of the guild, Mr Gbenga Adefarati, urged editors and reporters to be more concerned about ethics and fact-check before publishing.
He asked, “How many of us are cornered by religious sentiments and ethnic background?”
He said that there was a need to continue to build the capacity of media practitioners to improve on the profession.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that no fewer than 341 members of the guild attended the convention.