The International Press Center (IPC), has charged security personnel and respective authorities to ensure the safety and protection of journalist during the coming 2023 general election.
The center gave the charge on Tuesday, at a “Public Presentation/Stakeholders Roundtable on the Media Monitoring Report on Coverage of 2023 Electoral Process,” in Abuja.
Executive Director IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade charged journalist working on election activities to demand protection in volatile areas from their principal or the security agencies as this is their right.
Arogundade admonished the Police and other security agencies to avoid a repeat of the actions that was perpetrated on journalist in 2019, where accredited journalists were molested and harassed.
“We are making appeal to the law enforcement or security agencies that what happened in 2019 should not repeat itself. If a journalist is accredited and is able to show evidence of accreditation and in addition to that the identity card of his organization, any policeman or soldier on a national duty should know that that journalist is not a busybody and therefore should not be molested in any way. This appeal is very important.
“Journalists get attacked while covering campaign activities, they get molested. In 2019, even journalists that were accredited were still molested by security agencies. So, we are using this occasion to draw the attention of INEC, governments, security agencies and their own political parties to their own responsibilities if they want us to cover these elections effectively.
“As journalists, we have some rights which we don’t exercise. If you are being asked to go and cover election in an area where there’s likely to be outbreak of violence, it is your right to ask for protection.
“Because one thing is for us to say that as journalists, we must be ethical, professional and another thing is for the conducive environment to be provided for us.
Arogundade noted that, it will be wrong for any political party or candidates to deny journalist access to their public event because the Nigerian media code of election coverage says they should give free access and where some believe that the journalist is unprofessional, he tasked them to make use of the regulatory mechanisms to lodge complaints, but not go after individual journalists who are on the field.
Speaking further, he disclosed that, “well, no journalist was killed on election day at 2019 but 250 were molested across the country including some of them who were accredited, particularly by overzealous law enforcement agencies. Among the 250 were those who were also attacked while covering campaign activities.
“As we move towards the 2023 general elections, we’re also going to be monitoring the situation of journalists. And we’re also calling on journalists to report any threats, or attack.
Arogundade decried injustice meted out on journalist “it is worrisome that not less than nine journalists have been killed and there have been no investigation talk less of prosecution of the killers as we speak.
Also, on wearing protective gears Arogundade said, “we do not know if you wear bullet proof whether you will not be violating the police act, I don’t know if it is allowed but you see we need to have this conversation with them. Bullet proof, why not, especially for camera men. If the police can give us bullet proof once we are accredited, we will be happy about that. But beyond that what we are saying is that on election day, know that your own life matters.
“INEC also has a role to play, to make the issue of journalists covering elections an item on the agenda of their engagement with the security agents so that they will know you know what is happening. Also, the policemen that will be on election duty should also be given some orientation,” he said.
On her part, Professor Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika during her review of the highlights of trends in media coverage by IPC’s media monitoring activities on fifteen print/online Newspapers reporting of the 2023 electoral process appraised the media on electoral reportage.
Ogwezzy-Ndisika said, “the report presents state of the art on media reportage of elections in Nigeria. It also helps us to have practice direction on what we should do as journalists so that we can deepen democracy knowing that the media is a critical institution in elections.
“Based on this report, we have done well and we can do better. Conflict sensitive in our reportage because we need to have national cohesion and peace to have election.
She however, call for more inclusion of Persons With Disability, women and youth in reports as “we need to be deliberate about inclusivity in our reportage.