The Police in Enugu State has urged the media to ensure proper accreditation for election coverage to avoid embarrassment from security agencies.
SP Ebere Amaraizu, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Enugu Command made the call in Enugu on Monday during an Election Coverage Workshop organised by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) for its Editorial Staff in the South East Zone.
Amaraizu, who said journalists were the watchdog of the society, emphasised the need for them to be accredited for the coverage adding that they would not be hindered in their job.
In a paper entitled ‘Ensuring Violence Free Election through Police/Media Relationship’, he urged the media to endeavour to fact-check their stories to maintain their credibility.
He said they should avoid misinforming the public who relied on them for the right information and be guided by national interest and unity, rather than the craze to break the news.
The police image maker expressed the readiness of the force to secure and collaborate with journalists in the course of their coverage of the election.
He underscored the need for journalists to be civil and always establish themselves whenever they were doing their job.
Also speaking, Mr Felix Nwadioha, former Deputy Editor in-chief at NAN said journalists should be proactive and ensure that every part of the process was reported effectively.
Nwadioha, in his lecture entitled ‘Electoral Act and Election Coverage’ said there was need for journalists to be acquainted with the content of the electoral act as not to overreach their limit.
He said to be ahead of the process, the media must watch out for specific things such as the security situation, the level of deployment by security agencies and distribution of non sensitive materials.
Nwadioha, practicing lawyer warned against unverifiable reports which could overheat the polity, undermine the credibility of the process or get the reporter into trouble.
In his remark, Dr Emeka Ononammadu, Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Enugu State said election was not war.
Ononammadu said journalists must be and be seen as non partisan in their reportage of election events in the eyes of critical election stakeholders.
The REC said they should not confer undue attention to any party or politician adding that such acts could heighten tensions in the society.
He said the need for a credible election was not squarely on INEC but also on other stakeholders including security agencies, citizens and political parties.
According to him, a credible process has inclusiveness, transparency, accountably and competitiveness as part of its vital ingredients and INEC is ready, the question is, are other stakeholders ready?
“Credible election should not be determined from the prism of whose party or candidate won the election at the expense of how well the process was conducted.
“When you elect a credible candidate who understands that he is there because of the power of your thumb, you become the driver of his policies and actions.
“Journalists have a role to play in the achieving credibility of the process,” he said.
The REC said nation building was beyond building of infrastructure to enhance standard of living but to ensure that citizens see themselves as one beyond religion, ethnicity and other stereotypical considerations.
He said Nigeria must be united as a country in order to remain a formidable force in the comity of countries as no nation no matter how sophisticated could be a mighty nation.
Mr Vincent Okwor, former Zonal Manager, Enugu Zonal office of NAN said that news writing should be informed by the primary purpose to inform, educate and entertain the audience.
Okwor who spoke on the topic ‘Preponderance of Fake News and Hate Speech: the Nigerian Example’ said the menace were driven by online site who wished to drive traffic or readership.
He said no serious journalist or mainstream media should indulge unethical practices which ended up misleading the society.
“Fake news has the target of creating disaffection or to injure persons, it is a neologism that often used to refer to fabricated stories, he said.
Okwor said Hate Speech was injurious to the society as labeled or attacked people or groups on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sex, disability and other attributes.
He advised journalist to be wary of news and not publish information they were not sure of.
Earlier in her welcome address, Mr Maureen Atuonwu, Zonal Manger of NAN in Enugu said the workshop was to prepare staff of the agency ahead of general elections come Feb. 16 and march.2.
Atuonwu reminded the participants of the place of NAN as the flagship of media industry and warned them to eschew sensationalism, hate speech and fake news.
Participants at the Workshop on election Coverage were drawn from the editorial staff of NAN in the five Southeast states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo. (NAN)