By Edwin Nwachukwu
Lagos – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has advised the media to be mindful of its reportage of electoral events during the 2019 general elections.
The commission Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the plea at an event “Agenda for the Nigerian Guild of Editors’ Retreat’’ organised by the U.S. Mission Nigeria-Public Affairs Section in Lagos.
Yakubu, represented by Mr Sam Olumekun, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC in Lagos, said that this would have “a great effect on facilitating credible elections and corresponding social order’’.
According to him, it is important to observe that in the previous elections, the report of the media on electoral process has high degree of superficiality.
“Some reports on the process were not properly investigated, and some basics facts were glossed over,’’ INEC chief said.
He said that as stakeholders in the electoral system, the media was expected to maintain a high level of sustainability in the coverage of all electoral activities to ensure that records and facts were not distorted.
“We expect the media, being a veritable tool for information disseminating, to ensure that they apply a professional acumen to their reports so as not to leave prospective voters helpless and confused due to distorted information.
“The 2019 General Elections demands that reportage of the process meets the prime concern of media coverage of elections which entails the right of voters to full and accurate information and also their rights to participate in debates and dialogue on political matters.
“Inherent to this task is the entitlement of parties to use the media as platform for interaction with the public,’’ Yakubu said.
The INEC chief, however, advised the media to resist the temptation of being used to fan the embers of ethno-religious crisis prevalent in nascent democracy.
He also urged the media to give prominence to bringing out voters through adequate sensitisation of the citizens.
The Chairman of Channels Media Group, Mr John Momoh, expressed concerns over the role of social media and the phenomenon of fake news in the nation’s media landscape.
Momoh, who spoke on “What the Future Hold for The Media’’, said that creative ideas could be transformed into innovative media products.
“The subject matter at this retreat is so appropriate. What does the future hold for the Nigerian Media?
“How do we transform creative ideas into innovative media products? How do we leverage international partnerships for profitability?
“For those of us who have been in the broadcast industry for a decade or more, we know what we mean when we say the industry has digitally disrupted.
“Today, new markets are being created, with a new set of values that now threatened the existing markets,” Momoh, who is also the Chairman, Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), said.
He said that the use of social media gives a lot of concern as the 2019 Elections was approaching, because of “ease way of spreading fake news online.
“Social media, blogs and the ‘fake news’ phenomenon have all thrown the media into a precarious position.
“Those of us who still believe in the civic value of good journalism has been left in a quandary, as politicians are having a field day; taking a cue from the U.S. President Donald Trump, lambasting journalists for false reportage and balance.
“These aren’t the best times for journalists; social media, which many hoped will be a saviour with its open access and extensive reach, has actually compounded the problem by rewarding speed and sensation over accuracy,” he said.
Momoh said that broadcast and print media were faced with the challenge of unprofessionally reducing the quality of information disseminated.
“The broadcaster now faces the endemic challenge of unprofessional activities of some content producers, who create content that does not meet the minimum requirement of the objectives of the mass media.
“The unprofessional activities were all in the drive to wrongly influence the society.
“Newspapers are trying to adjust to the times by creating websites of their own, but that also leads to the decline in their print readership since they now put all their content online for free.
“A pointer to the fact that newspapers of the future will mainly take digital form,” Momoh added.
In his comments, Prof. Lai Osho, a former Dean, School of Communications, Lagos State University, Ojo, called for the strengthening of the gate-keeping in chain of news processes.
Osho noted that the media were going through tough time, ranging from economy pressure to technology arising from the activities of online/social media, among others. (NAN)