The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in collaboration with the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Wednesday in Kano trained journalists from the North-west Zone on conflict-sensitive reporting ahead of the 2023 general election.
One of the objectives of the workshop was to train journalists on electoral guidelines in the newly amended Electoral Act.
Speaking at the workshop, the National President of the NUJ who was represented by Deputy Alhassan Abdullahi said media professionals see it as a cardinal objective to promote democracy, development and therefore, we shall continue to work with INEC to ensure that democracy works properly in the country.
He said the media will facilitate easy access to information that will enhance participation in governance and ultimately enable citizens to make informed choices during the 2023 general elections, adding that journalists are veritable instruments and are therefore central to the functions of any political system.
Abdullahi however said media practitioners cannot operate as expected when there is fear in the discharge of their duty.
It is important that the issue of safety and security be given the needed attention by the government, he added.
The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voters Education, Barr. Festus Okoye who was represented by Samuel Bassi reminded journalists that sections 38 and 39 of Nigeria’s constitution (as amended) guarantees various freedom for the citizens and in the same vein, section 22 of the constitution provides that the press and other agencies of mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in chapter 2 of the constitution and uphold the responsibility and accountability to of the government to the people.
According to him, these sections have established the media in the electorate process over time.
Okoye emphasized the role of the media in the electoral process.
He committed that INEC will continue to partner with the media not only as stakeholders in the electoral processes but also as viable tools for combating misinformation, fake news, and malicious falsehood.
Okoye cautioned journalists to avoid tilting stories towards religious, zonal, and ethnic narratives.
Kano State Commissioner of information, Muhamed Garba in his brief remarks said journalists are partners in progress without which the society can only have a none functional democracy.
He said INEC should continue to engage journalists as the days progress so as to get the desired outcome of the electoral processes for the betterment of the country.
The INEC Head of Department, Information Communication Technology and Voters Register, Mr. Edwin Ocheka spoke on the new technologies for the 2023 general election which have been procured to aid free and fair elections.
He explained how the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS) will be used.
He said BIVAS replace the card readers that were formally used, and the BIVAS will be used to scan and transmit the result.
Ocheka added that INEC has made provision for adequate security and provision has been made to capture even people with disabilities.
The Former Deputy Editor of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Abdullahi Yusuf in his presentation on the media and the 2023 general election urged journalists to maintain an unbiased position, avoid hate speech, and verify all facts to maintain high standards of Journalistic integrity and ethics in their reportage.
The Chairman Nigerian Union of Journalists, Kano Stae Council, Comrade, Abbas Ibrahim in his closing remake charged journalists on the need to be careful on “Breaking News” that has not been subjected to tangible verification.
“It is better to miss the story than to mess the story,” he added.