Ahead of the 2023 General elections, Yiaga Africa has charged journalists to ensure accurate, simplified, and data-driven reportage of the elections in order to promote citizens' participation in the process. The charge was made by Yiaga Africa’s Executive Director, Samson Itodo on Thursday in Abuja during a media roundtable on the 2023 elections and the deployment of the Parallel Vote Tabulation.
The event, according to him, is to enable the organization to interface with the media which he describes as an integral part of the electoral process. It also allows the organization to build collaborations and share its election observation intervention strategies ahead of the polls. While decrying low turnout in previous elections, he said, there is a need to protect the integrity of elections because, amongst other reasons, people don’t show up at elections due to a lack of trust and faith in the electoral process.
He said, “Based on our work and engagement, there is a need to protect election integrity, because if we protect election integrity people believe that their vote will count in elections, then the probability that you will record high turnout for elections becomes high”.
He lauded the exponential growth in the deployment of technology for elections across the world, for voter registration, accreditation, and transmission of results saying this growth has implications for how elections are managed and perceived, and how people participate in the elections. He however warned that, while technology can potentially deepen the integrity of elections it can also be a tool for undermining elections.
“While technology can enhance participation, it can also deepen the inequality gap within a particular geographical context”, he said
“So new technologies also bring new dynamics to the management, as well as the observation of elections; but also, the political marginalization of several groups, women, persons with disabilities and youths is also at a high increase.”, he said. Based on this landscape, according to him, Yiaga Africa will be deploying the Parallel Vote Tabulation election observation methodology to provide timely and accurate information on the process while verifying the accuracy of election results. “We want to limit election manipulation through our trends analysis as well as strategic observation”, he said.
Also speaking during the event is the President of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) Ladi Bala said the media roundtable is critical considering the media's role in elections. According to her, being members of the media cohort, media personnel must make a deliberate and conscious effort to divorce themselves from political, religious, and tribal sentiments saying the Nigerian project should be placed above every other interest because we don’t have any other country.
She said, “we have the responsibility of giving them the right information, of protecting the integrity of the process because INEC has demonstrated to us to an extent that this time around will not be business as usual”.
“We need to help the Nigerian society not to entertain fear, not to assume that nothing will change, and let them do what they have to do to ensure that the change that we need comes into place; how do we do that? We must alleviate their fears”, she concluded.
For the President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Comrade Chris Isiguzo, the media engagement boosts the fact that all stakeholders are committed to ensuring that we have credible elections in 2023. In his words, “this is a very crucial election that has the capacity to make or mar the corporate existence of our beloved country, but we believe that by the time we go through this democratic process that we are going to emerge even stronger as a country and as a people who believe in their own system.”
“So as journalists, and as key stakeholders,’’ he continued, ‘‘let us not pander to the whims of politicians at any time; let us bear in mind that this country belongs to all of us, we must therefore via our reportage ensure that we promote development journalism”, he said.
According to him, the media remains a strategic stakeholder that will facilitate this credible election. “Along with the election management body INEC, the security agencies, the media remains highly strategic and that is why it is important that we don’t continue to encourage the dissemination of fake news as clearly broken down as misinformation, disinformation or mal information”, he said.
“You must ensure that by the time you pick your pen and paper to write, that thing that you are going to put out is going to culminate in the unity, in the peace, in the progress of our beloved country; not self-serving, not the interest of any political actor, not the interest of any political party, not promoting”.
“Make sure that your journalism is such that it will continue to ensure there is development, there is peace and tranquility, there is harmony and there is unity in our country”, he concluded.