By Emmnauel Oloniruha
The Director, International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos, Mr Lanre Arogundade, has advised Journalists to be conflict-sensitive in their reports as the country prepares for 2019 general elections.
Arogundade gave the advice at a Workshop on Covering Elections organised by the International Press Institute (IPI) in collaboration with UNESCO, on Thursday in Abuja.
He said that conflict in the electoral process was found in power competition by politicians, clash of ideas and personalities, among others.
Arogundade said that the power of the media often played out during the electoral process, especially during elections.
He said that the abuse of media power had had dire consequences in Nigeria, Kenya and some other countries following publications that engendered violence.
He pointed out that election was conflict “because it entails inevitable competition for power, divergence of views on problems and disagreement on solutions as well as clash of ideas, ideologies and personalities.
“Therefore, the essence of conflict-sensitive election reporting is to navigate the various circumstances of conflict in elections to prevent outbreak of violence.
“It is also to ensure that peaceful solutions are quickly found where such outbreaks become inevitable as they often do.”
Arogundade urged media practitioners to make it a social responsibility to be conflict-sensitive election reporters by not casting headlines or report stories that could lead to violence or crisis.
“Political conflicts do not just happen; they have background. Investigate the background to put the issues in perspective.
“Violent political conflicts are often preceded by early warning signs. Report them so those in authority can take actions to forestall.’’
He urged the media to fact check rumours, hot words, arms movements, protests, inciting/hate comments on new or social media.
Prof. Kwame Karikari, Dean, Wisconsin International University College, Accra, Ghana, also advised Nigerian journalists to learn from Ghana in exposing politicians and political parties who intended to cause electoral violence through hate speech.
Karikari, who is the Founder, Media Foundation for West Africa, said that what the media in Ghana did was to publish names of political parties and politicians engaging in hate speech.
He said that was one of the measures that helped the country to address the issue of hate speech.
One of the resource persons, Mr Lanre Idowu, urged journalists to give more focus to grassroots in their reports ahead of the 2019 elections.
Idowu, who decried that little or no attention was given to the rural areas in the coverage of elections, said such must change.
“The rural areas must be given attention because that is the area where politicians get the bulk of their votes. If they are not well informed, they may not make right decision during elections.’’