Media Experts Push for Election Charter for Journalists

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By Adedayo Akinwale in Lagos

With less than 20 days to next month’s general elections, media experts have canvassed for an election charter for Nigerian journalists as a voluntary commitment to raising professional standards.

The experts described this code/charter of election good practice as sets of threshold of fundamental values by which the country’s media could judge itself and be judged.

The experts made this known at a two-day workshop on ‘Election Reporting in Digital Age’ held in Lagos, which was organised by Daria Media and Thomson Foundation, with the support of MacArthur Foundation.

Speaking at the workshop, a media expert, Mr. Ian Beales, said the charter is a voluntary commitment that seeks to balance freedom of expression and the media’s right to be partisan and the equal rights of electors to expect openness, honesty and fair-dealing in the reporting of elections.

According to him, “It specifies the standard of accuracy, professional integrity and due sensitivity that embrace the best values both of Nigeria’s cultural heritage and ethnic diversity and of modern international society.”

Beales added that it also safeguards journalism in the genuine public interest and the freedom to editorialise to challenge, stimulate, campaign and criticise.

He said the charter should be strictly observed by all participating publishers, editors and their journalists and contributors, including none journalists- in print, broadcasting and online.

Also, the Executive Director of Daria Media, Kadaria Ahmed, explained that the voluntary code of conduct was being introduced because all the country’s fault lines, including religion, tribe, and even age are being exploited by politicians.

She stated: “I am hoping that the Nigeria media can be the voice sanity. I’m hoping that the Nigerian media would do reporting to highest possible standard so that Nigerians can trust whatever they see in the Nigerian media and this is why I thought a code of conduct might be a starting point.

“My hope is that this code of conduct will be expanded and voluntarily accepted across the industry. But this is a bit of a pilot and we carefully chose the ten media houses that took part.

“We think they are the leading media houses in the country and that if this code is taken to their news rooms and people see the impact it has had in improving quality, then it makes a case for itself on why the industry should adopt a sort of voluntary code of conduct, “he stated.