Journalists were on Friday charged to be objective and proffessional in their reportage particularly in the coverage of the 2019 general elections set to begin February 16.
The Former Editor-in-chief of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Alli Hakeem gave this charge at a two-day consultative meeting with media practitioners in Abuja organized by Search for Common Ground, (SFCG), an International NGO.
He stressed that media reports have the power to instigate violence or engender peace and urged journalists to ensure their reports do not heat the polity but is in the interest of the peace of the country.
“Media practitioners have serious role to play to ensure that we do not heat up the polity unnecessarily.” He said
He added: “Media practitioners can contribute to ensure that the election is peaceful and one way is to ensure that our reportage is not something that can cause crisis all over the place. Let’s remember that we have a country which should not be broken up with the type of report of political issues.
“Let our reports not engender more violence, objectivity should remain our main focus.”
Hakeem further informed that the essence of the media meeting was to discuss on possible ways to downplay, hate speeches, Fake stories, unfounded rumours which according to him are likely to incite violence.
“Media practitioners should shift away from this so that what they put out to their reading, viewing market is such that it doesn’t heat the polity particularly this election that is coming up Saturday February 16.” He urged.
The Senior policy and programme officer, for SFCG Bukola Ademola-Adelehin further stressed that the media have crucial role in sensitising and educating the populace on peaceful elections.
She added that the media is crucial in filling the missing gaps and tp compliment efforts towards mitigating identified threats in the build up of the elections which is not “sufficient”
She said: “at SFCG, we’ve engaged at the community level and worked with different stakeholders, but we believe the media have the larger space, have the larger platform and also have the role of agenda setting which if we can can collaborate with, then there is higher possibility of reaching millions of Nigerians to be able to disabuse their mind about violence in this elections.
“Media has a very critical role in passing the right information, and also in sensitising people about towing the line of violence, even before, during and after this election and that is why we at SFCG organized this meeting with media practitioners to talk about peace, using their platform, emphasizing to the electorate that violence is not an option before during and after the 2019 elections and disputes can be managed non violently.
“We believe it’s extremely important to bring the media to discuss the issues that could lead to the outbreak of violence, their are efforts but it’s not sufficiently, there are gaps that vould the file and we thinking working with the media could be a way to fill some of these gaps.” Ademola-Adelehin explained.
The two-day meeting had in attendance media practitioners from the print, broadcast and new media from across the country.
At the meeting, February 14, was declared Nigerian Media Peace Day with the theme; “Nigeria Media Day, think election, think peace”. The declaration adopted by the media practitioners present was officially launched by the President, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Isiguzo Chris.