As part of efforts to strengthen election security reporting in Nigeria, the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), in partnership with the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) organised a training event for journalists ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The 2-day workshop was held in Nigeria’s economic capital, Lagos, between Jan. 17 and 18.
It provided journalists with vital skills to protect themselves as the security of journalists remained one of the burning national issues being discussed when they approached the polls.
In her welcome address, Busola Ajibola, a Deputy Director at CJID said the society has entrusted journalists with the responsibility of holding those in power accountable to the public.
“The training curriculum for 50 selected journalists focuses on the connection between journalism and democracy, emphasising that weak journalism can threaten democracy. Topics covered include key elements of the 2022 Electoral Act, crucial issues for journalists to focus on in the upcoming elections, and strategies for investigating them,” she said.
“One of the defining features of democracy is the opportunity for citizens to periodically hold their leaders accountable through elections. However, the effectiveness of this process depends heavily on the media’s ability to inform the public.
As journalists, we must continually commit to, and capacitate ourselves to fulfill the watchdog role of promoting rational public discourse that can help citizens make informed decisions and choose better representatives,” she added.
Speaking during his session on “investigative tips for reporting elections”, Idris Akinbajo, managing editor of Premium Times, said elections are fundamental to democracy and go beyond voting exercises.
“Citizens are central to elections and we must ensure that we tell verifiable stories before, during and after elections.”
He also encouraged journalists to ensure that their environments are safe and keep close contact with their editors when on field during elections.
While Samson Itodo of YIAGA Africa took the trainees on the top 10 provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, Ajibola Amzat of the Center for Collaborative Investigative Journalism (CCIJ) trained the attendees on how to tell election stories with data.
Also, Dapo Olorunyomi, publisher of Premium Times, talked about the interface between journalism and democracy, explaining that “we should not allow the politicians to set the agenda for the media. Journalism is central to the project called democracy. We must serve as watchdog, agenda setters and gatekeepers.”
Olorunyomi added “we must ensure that Nigerians realise that they are citizens and not subjects in their country.”
In addition, the editor of Dubawa, Kemi Busari, trained journalists on the best practices of fact checking and why it is important during elections.
Speaking on the impact of the training, Rahma Jimoh, a freelance journalist, said the workshop offers her the opportunity to learn more about how journalists could protect themselves during elections coverage.
“I learned about the techniques and certain ways and things to do to ensure that one is safe. I also learned tips on how to save information in the face of danger.
“Another fascinating session from the training was the session on Gender Inclusion which was anchored by Mrs. Busola Ajibola. She talked about how Gender inclusion during elections is important and expanded the topic into the importance of every member of the society including people with disabilities, and how the process of the elections is inconsiderate to them which in turn discourages these people from voting.”
Jeremiah Omoniyi of Premium Times said the training has put him in the position to always look for important information that affects people, not the ‘noise by the politicians’.
“My take home message is that journalists should be the agenda setters and not follow the noise in the public. We must make the public understand that elections are important for the sustainability of our democracy.”
While Nigeria’s presidential and other federal elections, including elections to the House of Representatives and the Senate are expected to be held on Feb. 25, state elections will be held on March 11.
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