LAGOS – As Nigerians prepare to elect new leaders in 2023, journalists have been charged to embrace peace resolution journalism as instrument to sustain the nation’s tenet democracy.
The President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Chris Isiguzo gave the charge on Monday at the opening ceremony of Two-Day Capacity Building for Journalists and Civil Societies organizations (CSOs) in South West on Conflict-Sensitive Reporting, 2023 General Elections and Countering Fake News organized by Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and INEC.
Isiguzo while speaking on the topic: “Role of the Media in the conduct of Peaceful Elections” emphasized that the role of the media in peace promotion or conflict escalation has been heightened by a number of factors which include ownership and funding, editorial policy and the regulatory agencies.
He suggested peace journalism as an instrument in promoting peace and reducing dysfunctional conflict to the barest minimum.
He added that the media have a vital role to play in nation building, by being active partners in the implementation of the development processes.
According to him, journalists must avoid inflammatory news reportage during the election period which may cause disunity or incite violence in Nigeria.
The NUJ President cautioned journalists to avoid hate journalism, and fake news, saying these evils can destroy a society.
“This topic is very important at this time, given the fact that election periods in Nigeria are normally considered by politicians as do or die affairs. It is therefore auspicious for us as Media Professionals to brainstorm ahead of the election year so as to prepare ourselves very well for the onerous task ahead.
“In whatever we do as Journalists, it is very necessary to take the issue of peace as a cardinal point and take into consideration the need to be careful so that areas that are already fragile do not explode or implode.
“Peace is a basic requirement in a democracy. No democracy can flourish in the absence of peace. While, we concede that it is inevitable to eliminate crises and conflicts from our society, however it is important if deliberate efforts are made toward conflict resolution and peace building.
“How then can journalists use the power of the mass media to resolve rather than inflame conflicts? How can we as responsible citizens and media professionals help in ensuring a smooth and peaceful democratic transition? Is it possible to use the media pro-actively to help the complex process of conflict management and transformation to peaceful co-existence?
“As Journalists, we are expected to develop a thorough understanding of the elections and the electoral process, an understanding of conflicts and convey these to citizens in a way that reflect the truth in all their complexities.
“The proper foundation established by Journalists will provide citizens with the opportunities they require to make informed judgments about issues involved and perhaps help the government in taking meaningful decisions.
“Media professionals should brace up for the challenges ahead, especially since they are expected to participate in the process of social reconstruction and democratisation by providing a positive and participatory forum for the exchange of ideas, democracy and nation building and while discharging their duties Journalists should never attempt to deviate from the ethics of the profession because it will not auger well for the nation. Since the role of the media in Nigeria’s emerging democracy is central, media professionals must maintain the highest possible standards in their practice.
“The role of the media in peace promotion or conflict escalation has been heightened by a number of factors which include ownership and funding, editorial policy and the regulatory agencies, therefore it is proper to suggest peace journalism as an instrument in promoting peace and reducing dysfunctional conflict to the barest minimum,” Isiguzo averred.
The NUJ President, however, attributed lack of conducive working environment, mass poverty, poor remuneration and lack of adequate training for journalists as part of constraints of the media in promoting peaceful reportage.
“It should be noted that the emergence of our country as a democracy in 1999 was a product of collective efforts of Nigerians as represented by the mass media and civil society. Despite its challenges, democracy has provided Nigerians with space to freely discuss their affairs. Every single day of democratic governance in Nigeria helps to further deepen democratic values in the country. Our role as journalists is to facilitate easy access to information that will enhance participation in governance and ultimately enable citizens make informed choices during elections.
“We are conscious of our professional responsibility to gather, collate, process and disseminate news. Through this role, we act as gate keepers who determine which news material to disseminate especially against the background of the myriads of available news material. Using the means of new technology to reach a mass audience, the journalist influences opinions, builds perceptions and mediates among contending social and political forces. We act as mirror for the society to view itself while also influencing social realities.
“Clearly, while we have contributed to the process of democratic sustainability in Nigeria in the past 23 years or thereabout, we are also interested in its future.
“Therefore the 2023/general election is important to all journalists especially because it will further stabilise our democracy and strengthen the democratic culture in Nigerian.
“The NUJ is committed to improving the ethical standard of news reportage during elections.
“We are keen in ensuring that Nigerian Journalists undertake their professional duties within the ambit of the Electoral Law and other regulations. Professionally, we desire to improve the news judgment of the journalist as it affects elections and elections related issues.
“Media Professionals should be actively involved in the Pre-voting stage during which electoral frameworks may be developed or refined and boundaries may be defined to ascertain voter eligibility. During this phase, voter and civic education, Voter registration, party nominations, and electoral campaigns also take place.”