STRENGTHEN CORDIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH COMMISSION IN NATIONAL INTEREST, INEC CHAIRMAN URGES MEDIA



Chairman of the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Yakubu Mahmood, has emphasized the need for closer interaction and engagement between the media and the Commission, stressing that it would ensure balance and fair reportage in the nation’s interest. He said: “we will continue to urge the media to strengthen the cordial relationship it has cultivated with the Commission”.
 
Professor Mahmood made the call yesterday, during the Electoral Institute’s 13th Public Lecture, with the topic: “Media and Electoral Reportage in Nigeria: An Assessment of Professional and Ethical Issues, ” held at the auditorium of the Institute in Abuja.
 
Represented by National Commissioner, Baba Shetima Arfo, the INEC Chairman reiterated that the Commission was open to criticism and welcomed views that would help improve its activities and service delivery.  
 
The INEC Chairman observed that it had become imperative to examine the professional and ethical consideration that underpinned electoral media coverage and reportage in the era of the social media coverage of electoral activities.
 
Professor Mahmood called on journalists to painstakingly care for details and the facts, seek interviews, cross check and verify facts before reporting. He pointed out that election matters were sensitive matters that if not accurately reported, may trigger negative or violent reaction from citizens.
 
“The Commission has several platforms for accessing information including its robust website, “MyINEC”App and so on. And several Departments and Units of the Commission also have platforms that have been established where information on the activities of the Commission can be accessed. The office of the Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman, Director of Public Affairs and indeed the Chairman of the Commission can be easily accessed,” he stressed.
 
While acknowledging the role of the media in voter education exercise in during the 2015 general elections, under the auspices of the National Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Voter Education (NICVEP), the INEC Chairman maintained that the role of the Nigerian media cannot be emphasized.
 
He appealed to social media practitioners to consider the overall interest of the nation, peace and stability of the country, and allow those principles to be the determining or overriding parameters in their reportage of electoral issues.  He said: “just like conventional media, social media should be professional, objective, factual and accurate in its electoral reportage. It should not subject itself to the whims and caprices of politicians neither should it serve narrow interests of individuals or groups”.
 
Chairman of the occasion, and Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mr. Ishaq Modibo Kawu, shed light on the importance of the lecture topic to understanding the role of the media in the electoral process. He stressed that different institutions have a role to play in deepening the content of our democracy.
 
The guest lecturer, Professor Adigun Agbaje of the University of Ibadan, recommended training and retraining for media professionals, as well as inclusion of ethical standards in the curricular of higher institutions. He said: “the overall outcome would depend on sustaining and deepening current stage of media diversity, strengthening the application of media technologies in manners that devolves power and awareness to the grassroots and promotes democratic engagement of, and with, the people”.
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