By Patrick Anaso
#TrackNigeria: The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called on the Police and other security agencies not to stand in the way of accredited journalists deployed to cover the general elections.
Mr Festus Okoye, INEC Federal Commissioner in charge of Anambra, Enugu and Benue states made the call at a Sensitisation Forum for the Media in Awka on Friday.
The forum was organised for media practitioners ahead of the 2019 general election.
He said journalists were critical stakeholders in the process and must be granted unfettered access to voting, coalition and distribution centres.
According to him, accredited journalists must also be allowed to inspect all election materials.
The federal commissioner said media managers must be guided by election rules and relevant materials including the 1999 Constitution as amended, Electoral Act 2010 as amended and INEC Regulations and Guidelines to effectively perform the roles.
He said that the public had relied on the media for the right information during elections; hence the need for them to be in tune with the basic rules guiding the process could not be over emphasized.
“It is axiomatic that you cannot give what you do not have. Therefore, to report effectively, media managers must have good knowledge of the dynamics and nuances of the electoral process.
“A media manager that is blank in terms of information or does not read but relies on old order to informing the public is a danger to the electoral process.
“It is a matter of common knowledge that a large majority of the Nigerian people rely on the media for information on the electoral process, so it is fundamental and in the national interest for the media to be on top or be reliable,’’ he said.
Okoye said some political parties were also guilty of not following development in the electoral laws and guidelines adding that all the stakeholders must ensure the process were free, fair and credible.
He wondered why politicians were against continuous accreditation and voting when it was actually suggested and subsequently endorsed by them during commission’s expanded stakeholders meeting in Abuja.
He said the resolution became imperative to forestall the 2015 experience where over 2 million accredited voters were not able to cast their votes due to the clumsiness of the process.
In his lecture titled “INEC and 2015 General Election’’, Mr Victor Aluko said elections were also media events, adding that journalists who wished to cover the election must endeavour to be accredited.
Aluko, Deputy Director, Voter Education at INEC said since the Feb. 16 and March 2., 2019 general elections were fast approaching, the media should intensify citizen’s awareness campaign, adding that it was a civic responsibility of citizens of voting age to participate in the process.
He said this would enable the largest possible numbers to participate in the process with minimal errors.
Aluko also said the task was more now with the astronomical increase in the number of registered political parties participating and fielding candidates.
He reiterated that phone use at the polling cubicle was highly prohibited and urged the media to highlight the rule including the restriction of non- accredited persons from place where election was taking place.
In his welcome remark, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in Anambra said the forum was part of the activities in the build up to a successful conduct of the election.
Orji, represented by Mr Charles Mbanaja, the Administrative Secretary, said there were lots of information on the social media, adding that most of the information were fake.
He said the media, especially participants would be better informed to spread the right message after the sensitisation forum.
He however, urged them to be factual and fair in their reportage of election matters. (NAN)