*CAPPA, EU train journalists on election coverage
By Olayinka Oyegbile
As the 2023 elections draw inches to the start line, all agencies concerned with the organisation of the effective monitoring and outcome of the elections have revved up activities to achieve a peaceful and rancour-free exercise. It is in this light that the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) with the support of the European Union on January 31 and February 1, 2023, organised a training programme for journalists in Ibadan, Oyo State on peaceful and non-violent elections.
Speaking on the first day of the tagged Media Roundtable on Peaceful and Non-violent elections, the Executive Director of CAPPA, Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, spoke extensively on why the organisation with the support of the European Union under its Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU/SDGN) decided to call journalists together to jaw-jaw over their crucial roles in election monitoring and reporting. He observed that with the 2023 elections around the corner, there was the tendency for the fear of the break out of violence to be high, he however, charged journalists that their role was to douse tension and not to heighten it with their reportage of events.
He said the media can do this by providing the necessary platform for all the candidates and moderating the language of discourse as well as helping the electorate to make informed decisions through the assistance of the media. He said the EU was supporting the programme as a way of strengthening democracy in the country.
On his part, the CAPPA Director of Programmes, Mr Philip Jakpor, said the media serve as the beacon that sheds its searchlight on candidates and issues that deserve the attention of both the politicians and the electorate. He, therefore, said the media’s role in this business cannot be ignored. He urged journalists to know that they hold a huge power and should therefore exercise it with responsibility. The media, according to him, are the besotted that are sought after by both the candidates and the electorate, they should therefore help both to de-escalate tension and not inflame passion to lead to untoward pre or after-elections.
Ms Zikora Ibeh, CAPPA Policy and Research Officer, went down memory lane to remind the journalists of the unenviable role played by the media in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, she cautioned that the media should always be mindful of its power and be restrained in using it. She called on journalists not to allow themselves or their media to be used to play such roles. According to her, the media should be a partner in elections and not a party in the contest.
To end the first day of events, CAPPA’s Programme Manager Abayomi Sarumi thanked the journalists for their participation and for agreeing to be part of the players in the process of building an enduring democracy for the country.
On the second day of the training, Dr Tunde Akanni, Associate professor of Journalism at the Lagos State University, Ojo, spoke to the journalists on Understanding Conflicts and Drives of Conflicts. Drawing from reportage of past elections and the way the media carried out their responsibilities, he urged the media not to be carried away by the antics of candidates who employ strong languages and tactics to woo the electorate to their side. He said the advent of technology which has helped media was at the same time detrimental to its survival if used wrongly. He identified, improper use of language and veiled partisanship on the part of reporters, editors and so on as part of the drivers of conflicts and warned against the overriding interests of the electorate.
The Chair of the International Press Centre, Lanre Arogundade, in his presentation Election and Conflict Sensitive Reporting, also appealed to journalists to be careful in their reports of events. Speaking from experience as a reporter and editor, he called on journalists to be wary of manipulations. He used as examples some of the newspapers that the Centre conducted research on their headlines that were not conflict-sensitive and called for restraints.
Taking the journalists through the Electoral Law, Ms Aderonke Ige of CAPPA, simplified the law for the journalists and took them through the nitty-gritty of it without the legalese. With a fine-tooth comb, the journalists were shown what role everyone involved in the election has to play in its success.
Finally, Dr Olayinka Oyegbile, Development Strategies, who spoke on newsroom culture and peacebuilding in election reporting, urged the media to remember that they are part of the society and that they have a crucial role to play in ensuring the existence of society in which they operate as no media can exist in a chaotic atmosphere.
To round off the training sessions in Ibadan, the CAPPA delegation paid visits to some media houses where the importance of the training was explained to media managers and also to solicit their support and cooperation in ensuring that they play their role in the elections.