Resident Representatives of German Foundation in Nigeria, Konrad Adenaeur Stiftung (KAS), Ms. Marija Peran and other stakeholders on Tuesday underscored the need to ensure the safety of journalists covering the 2023 general elections.
They gave the charge in Abuja, during the one-day capacity workshop on ‘Fact-checking and safety of Journalists during the 2023 general elections, held at the instance of KAS in collaboration with the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID).
In her remarks, Ms Peran observed that the German political foundation has been active in Nigeria for more than 20 years through promotion of democracy, good governance and the rule of law form.
She said: “With Nigeria in its third decade of democratic consolidation and many complex conflicts threatening to rupture the country, the Nigerian media is one of the most powerful institutions in the country. Its influence and reach should not be underestimated.
“Legislature Reporting, an essential part of mass media function, is a significant feature of parliamentary democracy. The idea behind this is that both the people and the government benefit from legislature reporting.
“This specific task of reporting involves multiple activities of the legislature, including the complex process of law-making as well as debates on subjects of public importance. Reporting the proceedings of a legislature is a highly responsible job and requires the requisite ability and maturity to take on the task.
“The starting point to take on this task must be to understand not only the proceedings and processes of the branches of government but also the principles and challenges of governance in Nigeria.
“With General Elections ahead and faced with fake news and the growing importance of social media in the shaping of public opinions, while at the same time the safety of journalists is at stake, this shows us how relevant and timely it is to train those charged with covering the upcoming general elections.
“To this end, we meet here today. the General Elections 2023 are very critical and will determine the future of Nigeria. This means that functioning media coverage will also be critical. I encourage you to be the watchdogs of these elections, contributing to making the Nigerian democracy stronger.”
On her part, CJID Deputy Director, Mrs Busola Ajibola, who spoke on the ‘Interface of Media and Democracy – with the fundamental thesis that journalism, is in fact, the soul of democracy,’ explained that the workshop was aimed at “expanding our insights on fact-checking as an essential ingredient for election coverage and also equip journalists with security tips ahead of 2023 Nigeria elections.
“One of the distinct features of democracy, despite its known flaws is the opportunity of periodic elections – a process where citizens get to exercise the accountability power of rewarding good leaders by re-electing them and punishing bad leaders by voting them out. Or avoiding them altogether.
“But how well citizens exercise this power depends greatly on how well the media performs its informative roles. And the question then will be whether we have performed our watchdog role enough in ways that promote rational public discourse that can lead to informed decisions and reflect in the quality of citizens’ choices of representatives.
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“The society after all handed the torch of accountability to journalists – asking that we help hold those who hold power in trust for the public, accountable – and to report back to them and not to any other entity.
“But that job is compromised when the fact is relegated in the course of our reportage. The job becomes even increasingly difficult in a country where public officeholders erroneously perceive accountability and demand for transparency by journalists as antagonism.
“They forget that Journalists are merely doing their jobs – as expected by the society and obligated by the constitution. They seek to harm Journalists, and trends show that these attacks increase in election cycles.
“In 2022 alone, our Press Attack Tracker at CJID has documented 52 attacks against journalists. A good number of these attacks happened during political rallies where journalists get beaten up, denied access, or have their equipment damaged.
“As we approach the elections, CJID calls on the government, security agencies, political parties, and all other stakeholders to commit themselves to protect journalists and ensure their safety at all times. We want them to understand that their work is central to the advancement of democracy and the protection of human rights.
“We also seize this opportunity to call on tech giants to detoxify their platforms and algorithms of information disorder that can compromise the integrity of our elections or even swallow up journalistic content that has gone through rigorous gate-keeping processes,” he stressed.