By Segun Bambo Ojomo.
The International Press Centre(IPC) recently in Lagos held a Media Stakeholders’ Roundtable for the delivery and assessment of one of its recent works- Monitoring of Print and Online Media Establishments’ Reporting of the 2019 Electoral Process.
The event which drew participants including representatives of government and non- government organizations, the civil society and journalists was part of the EU- SUPPORT TO DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA(EU-SDGN) which showcased an analysis of trends in the reporting of the 2019 electoral process by 12 print/online news publishing organizations.
While presenting his review of the media monitoring report, Mr. Richard Akinnola of the Centre for Free Speech, Lagos decried the high frequency of electoral reportage on the “big political parties” which more or less made the “small parties remain unheard of in the electoral process.
” One noticeable feature that is common to this report is the concentration of reports on the “big parties” to the detriment of the “small parties”. As a matter of fact, a presidential candidate of one of the supposed small parties complained about five years ago in a newspaper interview that financial demands of journalists in the coverage of his activities and campaigns impacted negatively on his media visibility “, he said.
Akinnola while also looking into the percentage difference in mentions between the political parties, noted that APC obtained 55.9%, PDP 29.12%, leaving the remaining minute percentage to be shared by other smaller parties, a situation he described as very unfortunate.
Citing an example of the process in Ondo State, he mentioned Zenith Labour Party as that which had great presence and activities in the state, having fielded candidates in almost all the national and state assembly seats, but unfortunately not effectively covered by the media.
He also mentioned the issue of gender discrimination in electoral process reportage in which visibility given women in politics had been subdued.
He gave kudos to IPC for the success of the project which had gone a long way to helping the media give a rethink to its coverage of electoral issues to hopefully improve on its performance.
In her goodwill remarks, the Director, International Cooperation, Federal Ministry of Budget and Planning, Abuja, Mrs Elizabeth Egharevba represented by the Project Officer, EU-SDGN of the ministry, Mr Nwaeze Adam hailed the IPC for the initiative aimed at ensuring a peaceful electoral process and strengthening the media on professional and accurate reporting of the electoral process towards advancing democracy in Nigeria.
Also in his opening remarks, the Director, IPC, Mr Lanre Arogundade referred to the Federal Ministry of Budget and Planning as the ‘national authorizing officer’ of the activities of the EU-SDGN in Nigeria, a body charged with overseeing and evaluating the activities of IPC in Nigeria.
He gave the oversight functions of the IPC in Nigeria’s electoral process including: creating framework governing media roles with reference to the Electoral Act which stipulates activities of the media; upholding the Nigerian Broadcasting Code of Ethics for Journalists and the Nigerian Media Code on Electoral Coverage; liaising with international observers for accurate censorship and followups on electoral matters, among others.
Below is the executive summary of the project:
This report represents the outcome of the monitoring of 12 print and online newspapers conducted in the months of September, October, November and December 2018, being the second quarter of the exercise, which commenced in June, 2018.
In a number of respects, there are no significant differences in the findings for the first quarter and this quarter.
The newspapers whose content were monitored are: The Punch, The Guardian, Daily Sun, Vanguard, ThisDay, Nigerian Tribune, The Nation, Leadership, Daily Trust and Blue Print (monitored online). Others are The Cable and Premium Times (published online only).
This report highlights the findings from the analysis of trends in the reportage of the 2019 electoral process by the newspapers listed above. The monitoring exercise was undertaken as part of a media content monitoring activity under component 4b: Support to the media of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) Project being implemented by the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria.
The media content monitoring is a 24-month activity structured to span three key phases of the electoral/governance process, namely: the pre-election/voter registration phase (8 months); the electoral campaigns/voting phase (6 months) and the post-election/governance phase (10 months).
The purpose is to provide evidence-backed information on the pattern of media coverage and the performance of the media in the reportage of the on-going electoral processes and the 2019 elections. The report therefore highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the monitored relevant items especially in relation to the degree of professionalism, inclusivity and conflict sensitivity.
The outcome of this report, which also entails the documentation of the campaign promises of the presidential candidates will, like the previous quarter, be used as tools of engagement with journalists, media managers and media gate keepers at a quarterly media roundtable scheduled for Tuesday February 12, 2019.
In the context of the outcomes, it was observed that:• The media outlets during the period did not give equitable coverage to the parties and aspirants/candidates. Two political parties, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got much of the coverage while 89 others were not well focused upon. Findings show that the combined coverage that APC and PDP get is 85% while the rest shared 25%. While it could be argued that this possibly reflects the strength of the two political parties, efforts should have been made to cover and report the other political parties. • The monitored media outlets did not during the period give fair and equitable coverage to disadvantaged groups. Women, youths and persons living with disabilities were poorly focused upon.Findings show that men dominated the media space with 1,417 mentions, representing (50.61%). Women on the other hand got 102 mentions (at 3.54%), Youths got 109 mentions (at 3.7%) while PLWDs got 33 mentions at 1.14%. It therefore means that some of the women, youths and people living with disabilities especially those standing as aspirants and candidates might not have been given opportunity of getting their issues across to the public.• The monitored media outlets were conflict sensitive in their language use and generally avoided reports or headlines that could be interpreted as hate speech• Some of the monitored media outlets did not show enough sensitivity to gender in the way and manner of reporting female aspirants/candidates.