By Harrison Arubu
#TrackNigeria: Participants in a national media dialogue in Abuja on Saturday identified some potential threats to peaceful conduct of the forthcoming general elections.
They include: hate speech;f ake news; perceived partisanship by security agencies and electoral officials; late arrival of election materials at polling centres; and delay in announcement of election results.
Others are: conflicting court orders on election disputes; proliferation of small arms and light weapons; election rigging and unethical media practice, among others.
The concerns were raised during group discussions at the two-day forum organised by Search for Common Ground (SFCG), an international non-profit organisation.
The participants, who are mostly journalists, were drawn from various media and civil society organisations from across the country.
Veteran journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of NAN, Mr Alli Hakeem, set the tone in a paper titled: “Mitigating Electoral Violence: The Role of the Media”.
Hakeem said the media had a critical role to play in averting and mitigating violence before, during and after the polls through responsible reportage.
He noted that politicians, in their desperate bid to win elections at all costs, would always try to use the media to propagate their selfish agenda.
“Media practitioners must, therefore, rise above the fray and adhere strictly to the journalistic principles of objectivity, balance and fairness in their coverage of the elections,” he said.
The resource person enjoined journalists to refrain from reporting inflammatory comments and hate speeches, and focus on the issues.
“After leaving the campaign scene, and the politician is sensing that he or she might lose the election, he or she begins to adopt so many strategies, especially use of the media.
“That is the engagement of you and I to heat up the polity, to write or present programmes that would pitch one side against the other.
“They do this not because they love you as journalists but because they want to use you as tools.
“And when you allow yourself to be used by a politician, you lose your integrity, when you lose your respect with that politician, you also mortgage your integrity with your market,” the veteran journalist said.
He also counselled the media against ethnic and religious colouration while reporting electoral conflict, so as not to plunge the nation into chaos.
Earlier in her address of welcome, the Senior Programme/Policy Analyst of SFCG, Bukola Ademola-Adelehin, said the forum was organised to engage media practitioners on how to avert and mitigate violence in the elections.
“This is a forum for us as a civil society organisation to dialogue with you as media practitioners on how we can combine our strengths to mitigate violence and engender peace in these elections.
“Our aim is to see how we can use the media space to address divisive rumours, hate speech and ensure reporting of the elections is done in a conflict-sensitive way.
“Things can be said in a way that could lead to violence, and the same message could also be passed in a way that would contribute to the opportunity of deepening peace in the electoral space,” Ademola-Adelehin said.
Journalists from 45 media and civil society organisations from across the country are taking part in the two-day event. (NAN)