By Harrison Arubu
The Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) has directed its state councils to commemorate the National Media Peace Day slated for Feb. 14, annually.
The National President of the NUJ, Mr Christopher Isiguzo, gave the directive at the declaration of the day by a coalition of media practitioners from across the nation in Abuja on Saturday.
The commemoration is geared toward engendering peace in the 2019 General Elections and beyond.
Isiguzo read out the seven-point declaration, which was the major outcome of a two-day meeting hosted by the Search for Common Ground, an international non-governmental organisation.
To mark the day, media organisations are expected to put out special reports, feature articles, analysis and talk shows, among others, that will foster peace before, during and after the polls.
In goodwill messages at the forum, civil society leaders and veteran journalists emphasised the need for the Nigerian media to promote peaceful participation in the elections and freedom from violence.
Mr Audrey McCuteheon, the Senior Resident Director of the National Democratic Institute, said that media institutions and journalists had a responsibility to ensure that the elections were violence-free.
“I urge you to think of yourselves as instrumental in this process, to take on institutional and personal responsibilities to raise public awareness not only about the elections but also about the society that you want to help achieve.
“This includes peaceful elections, freedom from violence and the right to be free from discrimination for people who live with disabilities on a daily basis.
“There are a number of peace campaigns already going on, including the National Peace Accord signed by the candidates; I urge you to report on them, share information about them,’’ McCuteheon said.
He urged the media to take further steps, including combating hate speech and fake news, by not reporting or sharing them on social media.
Veteran journalist and pro-democracy activist, Mr Richard Akinola, advised media practitioners to shun partisanship and uphold the ethics of their profession in the coverage of the elections.
“We have noticed the trend in which some journalists are partisan, extremely partisan, even more than the spokespersons for the candidates and political parties.
“I have raised that concern at different fora; that yes, journalists have the right to their opinions, but because of the sensitive nature of the role the play, they need to be responsible,’’ Akinola said.
Similarly, Hajia Sani, the National Vice President (North) of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, advised media professionals against allowing religious, ethnic and tribal sentiments to influence their news judgment.
Sani said that as conscience of the society, media professionsls must take serious, their constitutional responsibility of holding the political class and those in authority accountable to the people. (NAN)