=By Funmi Falobi=
As 2019 elections are gathering momentum, Nigerian journalists have been tasked to shun hate speech and embrace best practices in the electoral reportage.
Similarly, journalists are also urged beyond reporting, to have the mindset of entrepreneurs in order to harness opportunities.
This was the submission at a two day workshop organised by the International Press Centre (IPC) in conjunction with European Union support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) for journalists in the South West region held at Osogbo, Osun State with the theme, “Best Practices and Professional Reporting of the Electoral Process.”
According to the IPC Director, Lanre Arogundade, the event was organised to critically examine the interconnections between the public, the media and elections towards developing an agenda that seeks to strengthen the role of the media in facilitating a credible electoral process.
“It is expected that this training will help participants to understand and imbibe the principles of fairness, diversity and objectivity in reporting the electoral process and the elections with the anticipation that this meeting will provide an integral opportunity for journalists to share their experiences to ensure best practice reporting for the 2019 elections,” he said.
In his speech, Muyiwa Popoola, Professor of Journalism, Communication and Media Studies, Ajayi Crowther University, said the way the media report issues contributes to conflict and violence.
Speaking on the topic, “Towards 2019: Avoiding Hate Speech and Being Conflict Sensitive in Election Reporting,” Popoola said Nigerian reporters have responsibility to cover the fact but avoid stoking hate speech.
“Nigerian media professionals should always endeavour to evaluate before they publish. They should be conflict sensitive oriented by adopting Conflict Sensitive Reporting (CSR) style. How we report conflict determines our safety in the land,” he said.
While enjoining journalists to uphold ethical professionalism in reporting the 2019 elections, the university don said, “As journalists, we should not just be searching for scoops, we should research, we should not be lazy journalists. In our reportage, we should look for shadow parties to reduce political conflict in the country.”
On his part, David Ajikobi, Nigerian Editor, Africa Check, took participants on eliminating bias in election reporting.
He enjoined journalists to get new skills necessary in fact checking and use such to present correct facts since readers tend to believe more in what they read from journalists.
Warning journalists not to fall victim of fake news, Ajikobi declared that in the next elections, fake news will be a threat – Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, fake news websites.
“A fact is what can be checked and backed up with evidence. Asking questions is the basis of fact checking. It makes leaders accountable before they act,” he said.
The fact checking expert took journalists through some tools they could use to verify pictures often used to propel fake news.
“As journalists you must be careful not to fall for fake accounts when you are using the social media as news source because your credibility built over the years can vanish when you share false information,” he warned.
Consequently, Taiwo Obe, Founder, Journalism Clinic, advised journalists to have the mindset of entrepreneurs.
Using his own media experience, Obe, who had invested over 40 years in journalism, went beyond the training outline to encourage journalists to think differently in order to maximise their career opportunities.
Speaking on the topic entitled “Enhancing Election Reporting in the Digital Age,” Obe said,
“If you have not trained your mind in what you do daily I want you to re-condition it and if you are not critical about your thoughts, you would be doing the same routine. It is necessary to do a self worth analysis.
Internet has no boundary don’t limit yourself. It is inferred that journalism has moved don’t limit yourself.”
Obe also took participants through career enhancing tools necessary for 21st century journalists. This include: Quick, Anchor, Google earth, Nimbles, Facebooklife among others.