By Princess-Ekwi Ajide, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has warned journalists to be wary of the new issues, new provsions and grey areas in the Electoral Act, 2022 so as to be grounded in election coverage.
The National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Barrister Festus Okoye who gave the warning recently at a one day forum on Ekiti, Osun States Governorship elections and the 2023 general election organised by the INEC Press Corps in Abuja said it will be unsafe to assume that the coverage of all elections is the same or that changes in the law or the constitutive legal instruments will not substantially or materially affect the conduct and outcome of an election.
He noted that elections and election laws are different and as such, the responsibility of the journalist to find the law, be abreast of its provsions and apply it to election coverage hence the need for training and retraining of journalists to effectively carry out their work as there must be an element of specialisation and the journalist must have some expertise, contacts and grounding in electoral matters.
Barrister Okoye, advised journalists to build their capacity through capacity-building courses so as to be in a position to understand the variables and vagaries of the Nigerian society in the context of the law and the constitution.
The National Commissioner, cautioned journalists to avoid sensationalism, not rely on rumours and unverified information as doing so can trigger a breakdown of law and order adding that the journalist must be circumspect and not give in easily to the temptation of joining a section of the new media in the breaking news syndrome
According to him, a journalist must on no account rely exclusively on unverified and unverifiable social media accounts and reports but must at all times be careful in relying on “sources that wish not to be named” or on sources “not authorized to speak” on particular issues.
He emphasised that delivering a free, fair, credible and inclusive election is a multi-stakeholder undertaking that must have the cooperation of the civil society organizations, the media, the security agencies and the political parties even though the Electoral Act 2022 has strengthened the hands of the Commission in the conduct of elections and institutionalized the use of technology to obviate human errors in the electoral process.
Barrister Okoye, said it is imperative for the media and the critical stakeholders to impress on politicians to accept democracy as the best way to produce good and competent candidates hence internal democracy in political parties must not only be entrenched in their constitutions and guidelines, but must be demonstrated practically in their primaries, conventions and congresses and all other party activities.
In a presentation on technological innovations in elections as antidote to electoral fraud, Engineer Chidi Nwafor, said with technology, the Commission hopes to stop voter intimidation, voter misinformation, vote buying, misleading or confusing ballot paper, misreporting of voter and voter impersonation among others.
According to him, lack of authentic voter register provides necessary environment for electoral vices to thrieve adding that double registration enables politicians to rig elections and community leaders remain relevant politically.
The one day forum on Ekiti Osun States Governorship elections and the 2023 general election tagged “election coverage in Nigeria: a look at the grey areas in the new Electoral Act was organised by Members of INEC Press Corps in Abuja.