Awka – Media practitioners from Anambra and neighbouring states on Thursday converged on Awka, Anambra State Capital for a media engagement aimed at deepening voter education and inclusive coverage of the 2021 Anambra Governorship election, scheduled for November, 6.
The media engagement was organized by the Institute for Media and Society, IMS, in collaboration with International Press Centre, IPC.
It is one of the many interventions of the IMS and IPC under the European Union-Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria, EU-SDGN project.
The Executive Director of IMS, Dr Akin Akingbolu who said the engagement was for media practitioners in Anambra and neighbouring states from the broadcast, print and online platforms, explained that the programme was to raise the bar of professional practice in the coverage of elections in Nigeria.
Describing the November 6 governorship election in Anambra as as key to determining the way forward for the state, Dr Akingbolu said there is the need for media to be alive to its responsibility of leading the conversation for the achievement of effective participation in the upcoming election.
“The idea behind this engagement is to enhance professionalism of media professionals as well as enhance the capacity of the media regulators in promoting the participation of marginalized groups in the electoral process.
“The Anambra media has been instrumental to the achievement of very plausible developments in the state and the conversation around how the elections will go cannot successfully happen without the involvement of the media,” he said.
He assured that the IMS and the IPC will sustain the engagement through continuous interaction for the growth and development of the media industry and the political system.
The Director of IPC, Mr Lanre Arogundade, said since 2018, the IPC has been implementing the Component 4b – Support to the media and has published several manuals on aspects of election coverage.
He also said the Centre has successfully built the capacity of 20 female politicians across all the geo-political zones on the political arena, strategic communication and media visibility, resulting in visible improvement in women’s inclusion in the governance process.
According to him, the essence of all their engagements, is to be able to support the media to promote fair, ethical, accurate and inclusive coverage of elections.
“We are strategic in our support to the media to ensure that they not only focus on the political campaigns and the legal battles of the gladiators but to also delve into voter education and documentation of the campaign promises of the candidates to enable the electorate hold politicians to account when they come into office,” Arogundade said.
In his words, “it is imperative that the Nigerian media perform the universally-agreed roles that media release the information that the public require to make informed judgments, report politics day-to-day, give voice to a wide range of interest groups and provide the forum through which public debates take place.”
The facilitator of the programme and first female professor of Mass Communication in Nigeria, Professor Chinyere Okunna revealed that only about 457,000, representing only about 22 % out of the over 2.2 million registered voters in Anambra State, participated in the 2017 governorship election, a development she described as worrisome.
She also said more worrisome is the massive propaganda and disinformation by the media as well as the fact that women are not given the opportunity to participate in the electoral process.
“It is worrisome that in Anambra’s legislative house that has 30 lawmakers, only one female lawmaker is there. Also in the Anambra Estate Executive Council, only four women commissioners are there. There is also the issue of exclusion of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. These are very negative systems the media must try to change through inclusivity in their reportage,” she said.
In their separate goodwill messages, the acting Anambra State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Mr Francis Ekpone and the State Chairperson, of National Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, Mrs Franklin Onyekachi, commended the initiative of the engagement, saying it is apt considering the call by some quarters for the boycott of the November election.
They urged participants to use the knowledge garnered at the engagement, to effectively and efficiently do their work.
Some participants, Onyekachi Ekekam of Alpha Radio, Nnobi and Onyekachukwu Okafor after the training, said they have been better equipped to achieve inclusive journalism.
The engagement also featured various sessions on guidelines for election coverage, fact checking and other aspects of media practice.