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March/April 2015  Lead Story - Jonathan vs Buhari - between Change and Continuity

March/April 2015 Lead Story - Jonathan vs Buhari - between Change and Continuity

March/April 2015

Lead Story

Jonathan vs Buhari - between Change and Continuity

 

First Word

Finally, the elections are here....

By Lanre Idowu (Editot-in-Chief)

 

After much drama, which has seen candidates crisscrossing all over Nigeria, promising all manner of goodies at carnival-like campaign rallies, the Aelections are here. After all manner of accusations, scaremongering, hate speeches and barefaced lying, the elections are here. After a forced six week shift, attributed to the need to provide more security in the troubled northeast zone, the elections are finally here.

Officially, the presidential election parades more than a dozen candidates but in truth the race is between two men, the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, and the persistent, General Muhammadu Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress, a former military ruler, who is making his fourth challenge for the presidency.

Unlike the previous four general elections, which the PDP won, this year's contest offers a more formidable opposition in the APC. Product of a merger of three parties that participated in the 2011 elections---the Congress for Progressive Change, All Peoples Party and the Action Congressthe APC has given the PDP a good run. Whilst the APC anchors its campaign on the need for change, the PDP has been harping on need for continuity to bring to fruition dividends of its transformational agenda

It has been a rancorous campaign, aided by a desperate political elite and an expensive one, welcomed by a gobbling media that has feasted on a rich harvest of political adverts. Claims have been repeated without sufficient effort to sift them. Lives have been lost and limbs broken in a tension atmosphere that has led to the political gladiators needing to sign peace treaty on two occasions.

The regulatory bodies on election coverage have been so remiss that there is compelling need to re-examine their basis of existence. That can wait till the elections are over. A good number of stories are served in this edition to give the reader a good feel of what the political climate has been.

Enjoy it.

 



Workshop

Timely Reminder To The Media

By Femi Babatunde

 

 

Two weeks before the Presidential elections, the media was reminded of its crucial role in mediating conflict by showing needed sensitivity to potentially divisive issues. At a conflict sensitive communication and reporting workshop held in Port Harcourt themed, Towards A More Secure Nigeria, held at Aldgate Congress Resort, five of the 19-point communiqué issued March 12 spoke to these concerns.

The workshop, organized by Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME) in partnership with the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programmer (NSRP), attracted 21 journalists across print and broadcast organizations and 18 spokespersons of security institutions. It was the fourth in the series of such workshops designed to deepen the capacity of both parties on the importance of conflict sensitivity in addressing the root causes of conflict communication and reporting.

The recommendations spoke of the importance of ethical journalism and need for journalists to respect its principles, advised them to always look at the big picture, deny prominence to hate speeches and inflammatory comments and called for the promotion of the national identity above ethnic affiliations. The organizing partners were duly represented by Mr. Lanre Idowu, Project Administrator, DAME; Dr. Ukoha Ukiwo, Programme Manager, NSRP; and Mr. Zakari Miijinyawa of the Counter-terrorism Desk who represented Dr. Fatima Akilu, Director Behavioural Analysis and Strategic Communication, ONSA addressed the opening ceremony.

At the eight sessions of the training led by resource persons from the academia and the media, the following recommendations were made as germane to facilitating better cooperation between the two groups in the overall national interest.

In particular, the workshop:

1. Commended ONSA, NSRP and DAME for organising a timely and well structured training.

2. Implored journalists to embrace the cherished principles of ethical journalism by striving for accuracy, fairness and balance in their reportage.

3. Urged journalists to respect professional ethics, embrace the principles of peace journalism, frame issues adequately, and encourage consensus building during negotiation processes.

4. Advised journalists to avoid reporting conflicts from narrow perspectives and be more sensitive to the needs of the most vulnerable segment of society such as women, children and the physically-challenged.

5. Decried hate speeches and dangerous comments in the media and called on journalists and spokespersons to be sensitive to the incalculable harm they could cause in the country.

6. Encouraged journalists to promote National Identity to enable people see themselves as Nigerians before their ethnic identities.

7. Charged the media to promote peace and stability of the country, boost the efforts of the security forces in their reportage, and avoid anything that can demoralize them.

8. Called on Government to organise debriefing programmes for victims of terrorism in the country.

9. Canvassed for more trauma centres to be established nationwide especially in conflict zones

10. Urged media organisations to take out life insurance policies for their personnel.

11. Implored journalists to invest more in research so as to enrich the content of their reports and programmes to the public.

12. Called for more collaboration with other training institutes in the country on conflict sensitive communication as exemplified by Ahmadu Bello University and Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP).

13. Urged spokespersons and journalists to rise above institutional challenges and live up to professional expectations.

14. Advised organizations to involve their spokespersons more in management decision making processes.

15. Recommended dialogue sessions and joint trainings for journalists and spokespersons.

16. Urged security spokespersons to be accessible, cooperative, polite, proactive and professional in their relationships with journalists.

17. Agreed that Workshop Participants should establish a network/knowledge group to promote better understanding and facilitate consensus building on conflict-sensitive communication and reporting.

18. Recommended that spokespersons should be integrated into security/military operations so that they can communicate the fight against insecurity better

19. Called on the organizers to arrange similar trainings for media executives and heads of security organisations.

 

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Election/Essay

 

 

Nigeria's 2015 Elections: Journalistic Options For Responding To Ethical Issues

By Lanre Idowu

 

ABSTRACT

This paper examines in practical terms some of the ethical issues that Journalists faced in the build up to the 2015 elections. The paper adopts document analysis to examine the provisions of the Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists and also purposively selected two newspapers which contain publications that showed scant regard for ethics in covering the 2015 election.

The paper recommends some options the media should embrace in addressing ethical issues in these elections and beyond, and also stresses the watchdog/gate-keeping function of the media.

Keywords: Journalistic Options, Code of ethics for Nigerian Journalists, 2015 Elections

 

INTRODUCTION

Three key terms, “Journalistic options”, “Response to ethical issues” and “2015 elections” are germane to our discourse. In the main, we will consider the import of the 2015 elections, examine how the electoral process was covered and discuss the options available to dealing with the ethical issues journalists faced in the process. In doing all of these, we will touch on the place of ethics in human conduct and professional service, and how to strengthen Journalism as a profession and occupation.

Elections represent an important component of participatory governance in that they afford the electorate the opportunity to pick their representatives into executive and legislative offices at regular intervals through the ballot box. (Idowu: 2010).

The 2015 elections represent the fifth attempt since the Fourth Republic began in 1999 to elect the people's representatives into public office. That we have been able to hold elections in 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011 and are poised to have the fifth in 2015 is itself an achievement.

Elections represent the culmination of the electoral process for the people to freely elect their leaders based on the acceptance or rejection of the choices placed before the electorate (Eya: 2003).

Elections serve as regular referendum on performance in public office where incumbents are either returned or voted out for new faces and fresh ideas. Elections emphasise the sanctity of the ballot as the means of empowering elected officials to carry out their promises to the electorate. They are credible when they are free, fair, and represent the true feelings of the electorate. (Garuba, 2007, Idowu: 2010)).



“2015 Elections”: What elections are we holding?

The elections were planned for two dates: February 14: Central elections into Executive and Legislative Houses: The Presidential, Senatorial, House of Reps and February 28: State elections into Executive and Legislative Houses: Governorship and State House of Assembly. They have since been changed to March 28 and April 11.

 

What are the issues?

The most urgent concern appeared to be Access to voting: are there sufficient Permanent Voting Cards for all those registered to vote? Regarding the issues that will define the elections, insecurity ranks high. Since 2011, the country has been locked down in violent insurgency in the North-East, losing in the process a large chunk of its landmass.

The uprising in the North-East periodically creeps into the North-West. The result is that normalcy has eluded a major part of the country. Children have been killed in dormitories; some 200 girls have been abducted from school since last year. Traders, farmers, and many innocent people have lost their lives to suicide bombings as the state grapples with the abnormality. At the last count, 13, 000 lives have been lost in the last six years to the insurgency in the North-East (Africa Check: 2014). In the North-Central, communal clashes are commonplace. Economic disagreements between farmers and cattle rustlers wear ethnic and religious toga.

In the South-South, oil pipelines are vandalised periodically even as erstwhile militants corner juicy contracts to perform chores previously done by uniformed state personnel. Kidnapping, the scourge of the South-East, has also crept into the South-West as people deemed of hostage value are held for ransom.

The economy, encapsulated in high unemployment, poor public electricity and high cost of business, stretches the entrepreneur, benumbs the average citizen, and remains a worry for all.

Official corruption, the conscienceless appropriation of the commonwealth for private gain (Idowu: 2009, p 183) that wears a nauseating perfume in public remains troubling, and made worse by the seeming lack of political will to prosecute offenders.

Ethnicity or the It's-the-turn-of-our-zone mentality hampers any serious effort at nation building. Religion, which should be a private affair, has crept into state administration, pitting Muslims against Christians, animists against free thinkers, north versus south.

Education - access to it and quality of what's offered - remains troubling. The poor results from the West African School Certificate Examination do not appear as ending soon. (Premium Times: 2014) Concern for educational competence of our presidential candidates has also featured as an issue of public interest. Regrettably, its treatment has not been addressed in the public interest as the media have shown more interest in generating rather than beaming light on the issue of General Muhammadu Buhari's credentials.

TConcern for performance or record in office is also an issue. There is legitimate concern on how a past military ruler (Buhari) would perform in a democratic setting, as there is worry over what is perceived as squandered opportunity in service in the first term in office of President Goodluck Jonathan.

 

The principal players in this election are the:

* Electoral management body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

* The political parties and candidates

* The government and its law enforcement agents

* The civil society organisations

* The electorate and

* The media

 

Guidelines for Media coverage

The INEC released in December 2014 the Nigeria Media Code of Electoral Coverage, which had earlier been adopted on 31st October 2014 by various media interest groups, namely: Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU), Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), and the International Press Centre (IPC).

The underlying principles guiding the Code for electoral coverage include:

* The promotion of the right of citizens to freely express themselves and have unfettered access to information on the electoral processes;

* The protection of the right of the media to freely access and truthfully disseminate information on the electoral processes;

* The promotion of the right of media access by parties, candidates and under-represented groups;

* The promotion of democratic norms and values.

 

Some salient provisions

Under Article 1.1. of the code dealing with Parties and Candidates, the Responsibility of Media Organisations was couched in 1.1.1 and 1.1.2 to read:

1.1.1. A broadcast medium shall ensure equitable allocation of time at specific but similar periods for all parties contesting elections to state their programmes;

1.1.2. A media organisation shall regularly apply the principle of equity in the coverage and reportage of campaigns and other activities of parties and candidates contesting elections;

Under 3.5.2, which deals with political advertising, “A media organisation shall not publish or air political adverts, advertorials and sponsored political news that seek to create hatred or incite violence”.

Under 4. 3, which deals with Hate Speech, “A media organisation shall reject any material intended for publication or airing by parties, candidates and other interests that contains hateful or inciting words and messages”;

And 4.4 “A media organisation shall refrain from publishing or airing abusive editorial comments or opinions that denigrate individuals or groups on account of disability, race, ethnicity, tribe, gender or belief”;

Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage and the Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists:

The Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage is an elaboration on the NPO Code of Ethics for Nigerian journalists, which was adopted in Ilorin on 20th March 1998. That code has 15 parts, ranging from such concerns as Accuracy to Fairness, Editorial Independence, Decency, Discrimination, Privacy etc.

 

Significance of the two codes

Central to the codes are such concerns as Public Trust, Media Credibility, and the Notion of Responsibility. They are all mutually reinforcing. In reposing trust in the media, the public expects a fair and professional deal in media offering. Media Credibility means the public can act on what the media present as having been professionally processed and passed for patronage or consumption. The sum total is that the media must show responsibility in all its actions (Idowu: 1996).

This responsibility can be assessed on four levels: The personal, professional, organisational and constitutional. It is people who create media products and services so individual or personal responsibility is the foundation on which other tiers build. The individual journalist must have an idea of what responsibility is, before it can be practised (Merril: 1978). The true professional measures individual output against agreed professional standards. The organisational notion of responsibility is pronounced in the mottos media houses attach to their titles. For example, “Conscience, nurtured by truth” proclaims The Guardian; “Truth in defence of freedom”, asserts The Nation; whilst Vanguard says its editorial fare will take readers “Towards a better life for the people”. The constitutional provisions in Sections 22 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) enjoin the media to act, on behalf of the people, as watchdogs over government in a free setting.

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ELECTION/ISSUE

 

The Media’s Missed Opportunities

By Ayodeji Olonode

 

It is common knowledge that the media play a critical role in every human society. This is most evident in the information dissemination and discussion moderation function that the media perform in societies. In modern democratic societies, which entail representative governments, the media play the very essential role of ensuring that information vital to the existence, survival and development of constituents of such societies is availed to them in a timely, equitable, fair and balanced manner. Thus at election time, when constituents must elect their representatives, it becomes doubly imperative that the media afford them all information necessary for them to make informed choices about whom to elect and whom not to elect into positions of authority.

Basically, the media are expected during election seasons to perform such functions as - information on political parties and candidates participating in the process, questions of debate, the voting process and any other elements which encourage a friendly process for voters. Consequently, the media should be impartial and balanced in their election news coverage and should not present programs or articles that favor one particular candidate or political party. Also, the media should educate voters on the general and particular issues of the electoral process.

Taking into account the above, one can almost say that the media in any true democracy should fulfill similar functions as that of the Electoral Commission. This is just to stress the importance of the media as having greater responsibility with respect to impartial information and objectivity, and is set apart from electoral intervention provided by other agencies of the government.

One may of course wonder if this description of the media's function in electoral process is overly practicable, especially when we take a critical look at how the Nigerian media has fared hitherto in the build up to the 2015 general elections.

Has the media done enough to educate Nigerians through stories that adequately explain the national situation (political, social and economic)? Has the media done enough to constructively manage controversies and other issues that have emerged in the build up to the 2015 election? Practically, in the build up to the 2015 general elections, the media has done so well in parroting the perspectives of the leading political parties and recording the points scored in like manner.

For instance, the media involvement in the certificate saga involving General Muhammadu Buhari (the presidential candidate for the All Progressive Congress) leaves the public with glistering wonders as to whether or not the Nigerian media have done enough to constructively manage controversial highlights in the build up to the election.

For some practitioners and analysts, the Buhari certificate saga was an opportunity to reactivate their argumentative ability, probably last expressed in their school days. Publications were littered with presentation of points that were capable of achieving so many logical results but the education and guidance of the electorate.

Rather than parroting the opinions of different party representatives on the certificate hoax of General Muhammadu Buhari, the media would have done well to go back in time, to inquire or query whether or not General Muhammadu Buhari actually presented a certificate on the previous three occasions when he contested presidential election and lost. If it were discovered that Buhari did not present any certificate on his past three presidential aspirations according to Section 131(d) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999, then there is need for a political conscientization about our assumed rule of law in this country; but if he actually presented a certificate, the media should not even had dwelt as long as it did on the issue.

Also, it suffices to say that the media missed the chance of addressing the mess created and rubbed on the Nigerian Army around the Buhari's certificate issue. The certificate hoax of the APC Presidential candidate, made the Nigerian Army look so cheap and unserious. Although it is quite unfair to tag our Nigerian Army unserious and cheap given the respect they have commanded over the decades especially in peace-keeping missions, the portrayal that a man could rise to the rank of a Major General in the Army and even become a military Head of State without any qualification or satisfaction of institutional requirement leaves room for questions about the integrity of the military. Unfortunately, we did not get to see these questions asked.

The unfolding picture in this scenario is that of a missed opportunity. The media actually missed a golden opportunity to win the respect and trust of the publics, and an opportunity to re-affirm and justify her appellation as the fourth estate of the realm.

If the media in reality stand to the core of her creed or ideals, allegations of the media attempting to tarnish an individual's image or discrediting a political party would be unfounded.

As part of the glistering wonders, one cannot help but ask whatever has befallen our investigative reporters in the build up to the general elections. The dodgy undertaking of refereeing between allegations and responses of the leading parties would only drop jaws and raise questions about the adherence of the Nigerian media to fundamental tenets of what the media should represent in any human society.

There is need for a media that is more than being routine, that has the intelligent quotient to understand the forces and struggles that shape agenda setting and how the media can function effectively with this understanding to aid social development.There is need for the media to be ethically committed and spectacularly transparent, for the sake of the society to which they are accountable.

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LECTURE

The Nigerian Media And Agenda Setting

By John Momoh, OON

 

Agenda setting describes a very powerful influence of the media the ability to tell us what issues are important by creating public awareness and concern on salient issues through the news media. Here, John Momoh attempts an application of this theory to the pre-election media influence on the Nigerian audience. The deduction from this theoretical application mirrors a need to press from setting agenda through regular news to using investigative journalism to set agenda for development in the nation.

Theoretically, the Agenda Setting Theory (AST) of the media as put forward by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw (1972) during their very influential research on the role of the media in the 1968 U.S. Presidential elections observes that:

In choosing and displaying news, editors, newsroom staff, and broadcasters play an important part in shaping political reality. Readers learn not only about a given issue, but also how much importance to attach to that issue from the amount of information in a news story and its position […] the mass media may well determine the important issues that is, the media may set the “agenda” of the campaign.

Overtime, the Agenda Setting Theory research has demonstrated that the more stories the news media publish on a particular subject, the more importance audiences attach to that subject. In relation to AST, Stanley Baran holds that the “media may not tell us what to think, but media certainly tell us what to think about” (2002). He further argues that the agenda setting power of the media resides in more than the amount of space or time devoted to a story and its placement in the broadcast or on the page. Since about 43 years since the publication of the original agenda-setting article by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw, the domain or focus of agenda-setting research has moved beyond politics and public affairs to the world of business, sports, the economy, education, health and entertainment; and the methods used in such studies have gone far beyond the simple rank-order correlations, between media and public agenda.

The theory's central claim as stated earlier is that the media focus the public's attention and influence the public's perceptions of what are the important issues of the day. Whether you agree or disagree with this claim depends on what school of thought you belong to. After all, the original McCombs and Shaw agenda setting study focused on four local sources The New York Times, Time Magazine Newsreel, NBC and CBS. So you can understand why critics of the theory are quick to emphasize that in a digital world such as we now find ourselves, the fundamentals have changed and the theory may not remain viable. Such critics argue that people now get their news from a finite number of news outlets, run by professional gatekeepers, with shared news values. As the numbers of news outlets increase the advance for them shrink. Therefore, the assumption of a unified media agenda has become problematic. In other words, as audiences gain more control over what news services they will use, such audiences will likely seek services that support their points of view.

How does the media set agenda?

But let's put aside the academics and focus on the Nigerian Media and how they set or do not set the agenda for the public. Nigeria's media landscape is perhaps, the most vibrant in Africa. The nation has about 320 broadcast stations made up of 170 television stations and 150 Radio stations, each of them with about 80% population coverage. There are also cable and direct-to-home satellite offerings, the print media which has 150 national and local press titles, and the internet, a growing list. So far, the internet and the World Wide Web cannot set an agenda, primarily because the audience remains small, and many online publications depend on major brand names as the primary sources of information.

Therefore, the broadcast outlets and newspapers that operate the Web sites still maintain control of the setting of the journalistic agendas and the public debate. Even at that, online journalism stands to dramatically alter the traditional role of the reporter and editor.

Be that as it may, “unlike the twentieth-century media environment, in which media largely was limited to traditional media entities, 21st Century Media options are endless, captured by the economic metaphor of the long tail. The Long Tail is a phrase coined by Chris Anderson, in 2004 in which he argued that products that are in low demand or have low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters, but only if the store or distribution channel is large enough. Citizens can now opt to be creators and or distributors. They now curate the web in large numbers for interesting content sharing links and other newsworthy information out in the confines of newsroom home pages and within the digital world such as blogs, twitter and social networking sites (Meraz, 2012). Consequently, traditional media is no longer capable of leveraging complete media agenda setting influence which in effect means that Agenda setting power is also influenced by external forces who constantly seek to put their own agenda in the front burner, now shared between citizen media and traditional media.

The Elections and Agenda Setting

For Nigerians who painstakingly watched the setting and the general atmosphere at INEC'S press conference in Abuja, on February the 7th, the methods, intricacies and critical tools of news reporting could not have gone unnoticed. Individuals with certain skills and an array of equipment crowded up the whole space all day-long for a singular purpose: to receive or extract the final word from the leadership of the electoral body and to disseminate the information to the wider public.

When the press conference finally got underway, observers must have had further insights into processes leading to the final product, that is, the news (whether in print or broadcast, social media or Internet). In the question and answer session when the INEC Chairman had to explain some knotty issues, it was evident that journalists carry out pre-event investigations and research and are able to elicit information or commitments that could bring some issues to closure.

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