The Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage

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The Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage
PREAMBLE
WHEREAS it is an established principle that informed consent promotes
democracy;

WHEREAS it is equally established that democracy thrives on good
democratic practices, the kernel of which is the right of the people, to freely
and knowledgeably choose their representatives;

RECOGNIZING that the media enables voters to make informed choices by
providing information that enhances their knowledge of electoral processes;
NOTING that the media as watchdog of the society should be catalysts of
transparent electoral processes and credible, free, fair and peaceful
elections;

REALIZING that this obligation entails the performance of oversight, public
education, open forum and conflict management roles by the media during
elections;

CONSCIOUS that the effective performance of these important roles requires
the observance of the highest standards of professionalism, maximum
compliance with regulatory frameworks and deference to the public good
and interest;

AGREEING therefore that it is desirable to have a set of guidelines that
regulate the professional conduct of the media and journalists during
elections;

MINDFUL of the fact that compliance with the guidelines will facilitate
credible elections and corresponding social order;
KNOWING that such guidelines should align with international standards,
instruments and declarations on best practices in election reporting with the
underpinning principles of:

• The promotion of the right of citizens to freely express themselves and
have unfettered access to information on the electoral processes;
• The protection of the right of the media to freely access and truthfully
disseminate information on the electoral processes;
• The promotion of the right of media access by parties, candidates and
under-represented groups; and
• The promotion of democratic norms and values.
WE, the representatives of Nigerian media organisations, institutions,
professional bodies and support groups, hereby agree to abide by this

MEDIA CODE OF ELECTION COVERAGE.

STATEMENT OF BROAD PRINCIPLES
This media code of election coverage is predicated on the principle and
the expectation that relevant institutional stakeholders including the
Government, the Political Parties, the Election Management Body and Civil
Society Organisations will contribute to the creation of an enabling  environment for the media to perform its professional and social obligations
during electoral processes.

i. The Government

• The government and its agencies shall ensure the safety of journalists
during electoral processes, including refraining from assault or intimidation
in any manner whatsoever;

• The government and its relevant agencies shall ensure prompt
investigation and prosecution of any individual or group accused of assault
or intimidation against the media and journalists during electoral processes;

• The government and its agencies shall channel any complaint over the
conduct of journalists during electoral processes to regulatory or legal institutions and refrain from extra-judicial actions or other forms of self-help;

• The government and its agencies shall ensure the free movement of
journalists in any part of the country during electoral processes and refrain
from any act that shall inhibit such;

• The government shall abide by institutional, regulatory and legal
frameworks requiring equitable access to state media by parties and
candidates contesting elections.

ii. The Political Parties

• Political parties shall respect the right of journalists to cover and report
their activities and refrain from harassing them in any manner whatsoever;

• Political parties should support the investigation of any act of assault or
intimidation against the media and journalists by their members or agents
and ensure that alleged perpetrators are promptly brought to justice;

• Political parties shall channel any complaint over the conduct of journalists
covering their activities to regulatory or legal institutions and refrain from
extra-judicial actions or any other form of self-help;

• Political parties shall provide prompt notification and adequate
information on their activities;

• Political parties shall not offer bribes or other forms of inducement to
journalists to publish or suppress information about themselves or their
activities.
iii. The Election Management Body

• The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shall proactively
provide the media and journalists with information on its activities to aid the
factual and credible reporting of the electoral processes;

• The Independent National Electoral Commission shall provide information
and materials to the media to enable them to carry out accurate and effective
civic and voter education;

• The Independent National Electoral Commission should support capacity
building for journalists and other media professionals on the reporting of
elections;

• The Independent National Electoral Commission shall make electoral
information freely available to the media to enhance factual and
credible reporting of electoral processes;

iv. Civil Society Organisations and Media Support Groups

• CSOs and Media Support Groups shall collaborate with the media on
the conduct of civic and voter education;

• CSOs and Media Support Groups shall support capacity building for
Journalists and other media professionals on election reporting;

• CSOs and Media Support Groups shall take proactive measures in the
defense of the right of the media and journalists to freely report
electoral processes without any form of harassment or intimidation;

• CSOs and Media Support Groups shall proactively share reports of
their observations of electoral processes with the media.

Section 1.
1.0. Equitable Access
The performance of campaign platform and public forum role of the Nigerian
media during elections requires deference to the right of parties and
candidates in elections to equitable media access especially as envisaged by
legislative and institutional frameworks and other relevant instruments
including the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the Nigerian Broadcasting Code
(as revised) and the Nigeria Press Organisation Code of Ethics for Nigerian
Journalists. It also requires giving opportunity to under-represented groups to
express their views.

Accordingly:

1.1. Parties and Candidates
The Responsibility of Media Organisations

1.1.1. A broadcast medium shall ensure equitable allocation of
time at specific but similar periods for all parties
contesting elections to state their programmes;

1.1.2. A media organisation shall regularly apply the principle of
equity in the coverage and reportage of campaigns and
other activities of parties and candidates contesting
elections;

1.1.3. A media organisation shall at all times uphold the right of
parties and candidates to reply to allegations made
against them;
1.1.4. A broadcast medium shall strive to ensure the participation of all parties and candidates contesting elections in political debates.

1.2. Under-represented groups
The Responsibility of Media Organisations

1.2.1. A media organisation shall, as a matter of deliberate editorial policy, target under-represented groups, especially women, youths, persons living with disabilities and rural dwellers in the coverage of electoral processes;

1.2.2. A media organisation shall consciously reflect the views and perspectives of women, youths, persons living with disabilities and rural dwellers in electoral reports.
Section 2.

2.0. Professionalism & Social Responsibility
As the chief purveyor of information on the electoral processes, the media shall at all times embrace best professional practices by acting in accordance with the principles of social responsibility.

Accordingly:
2.1. Fairness, Accuracy & Balance
The responsibility of journalists
2.1.1. A journalist shall report elections accurately and without
bias;
2.1.2. A journalist shall report elections in a fair and balanced
manner;
2.1.3. A journalist shall report only fact-based electoral
information;
2.1.4. A journalist shall verify any allegation made against a
party, candidate or any other interest and reflect all sides
in the story;
2.1.5. A journalist shall report the views of candidates and
political parties directly and in their own words, rather
than as they are interpreted by others;

The responsibility of media organisations
2.1.6. A media organisation shall ensure accurate and impartial  voter education on parties, candidates, registration, verification, voting centres, voting procedures, complaint
procedures, etc as provided by relevant agencies;

2.1.7. A media organisation shall disseminate voter education in
indigenous languages and through messages that target
under-represented groups including women, youths and
People Living with Disabilities;

2.1.8. A media organisation shall uphold the right of the people
to free expression by providing opportunity for ordinary
citizens to express their views during electoral processes.

Section 3:

3.0. Ethical Conduct
Good journalism requires decent conduct that conforms to acceptable social
norms, values and ethical codes; it also requires that journalists are well
resourced and are able to act independently of the subjects of their reports.

Accordingly:

3.1. Integrity
The responsibility of journalists

3.1.1. A journalist shall NOT solicit or accept bribes or make
other pecuniary demands from parties and candidates to
publish or suppress reports;

3.1.2. A journalist shall NOT betray partisan interest by presenting personal opinion as facts in reports;

3.1.3. A journalist shall NOT betray partisan interest by donning
the insignia of candidates and parties;

The responsibility of media organisations

3.1.4. A media organisation shall respect and abide by the
confidentiality of sources who so request;

3.1.5. A media organisation shall provide adequate resources
for journalists to independently report activities of parties
and candidates;

3.1.6. A media organisation shall refrain from publishing or airing news items and interviews that are patently one-sided.
3.2. Credibility:

The responsibility of journalists

3.2.1. A journalist shall use investigative methods and
instruments to ensure factual and accurate reporting of
electoral processes;

3.2.2. A journalist shall report electoral processes proactively
and avoid excessive reliance on press releases and media briefings;

3.2.3. A journalist shall not deliberately distort or misrepresent
the facts of a political or electoral issue;

The responsibility of media organisations

3.2.4. A media organisation shall at all times uphold the right of
reply to issues in election reports and programmes;

3.2.5. A media organisation shall promptly correct any
inaccurate, misleading or false information with the same
prominence as the original report.

3.3. Opinion Polls:

The responsibility of journalists

3.3.1. A journalist shall ensure due diligence and exercise
restraint in reporting the findings of election opinion polls
by clearly stating the context, particularly:
– Those who commissioned and conducted the poll;
– The specific questions that were asked;
– The number and diversity of people interviewed; and
– The limitations and margin of error of the poll;

The responsibility of media organisations
3.3.2. A media organisation shall make use of objective
methodologies that neither favour nor exclude particular
groups and interests in conducting election opinion polls.

3.4. Endorsements:
The responsibility of media organisations

3.4.1. A media organisation that endorses candidate(s) for particular office(s) shall disclose that the endorsement represents ONLY its opinion and will not impair the balanced coverage of campaigns by all parties and candidates contesting elections.

3.5. Political advertisement:
The responsibility of media organisations

3.5.1. A media organisation shall clearly identify political adverts
and advertorials and refrain from presenting them as independent news or opinion of the organisation;

3.5.2. A media organisation shall not publish or air political adverts, advertorials and sponsored political news that seek to create hatred or incite violence.

Section 4.

4.0. Hate Speech and Incitement
Hate speech and other forms of incitement could lead to violence and
threaten the democratic fabric of a society. The social obligations of the
media during elections, therefore, include the prevention of hate speech.

Accordingly:

The responsibility of journalists

4.1. A journalist shall make use of temperate language in reporting
electoral processes;

4.2. A presenter of a live programme shall refrain from airing
pejorative comments;

The responsibility of media organisations

4.3. A media organisation shall reject any material intended for
publication or airing by parties, candidates and other interests
that contains hateful or inciting words and messages;

4.4. A media organisation shall refrain from publishing or airing
abusive editorial comments or opinions that denigrate
individuals or groups on account of disability, race, ethnicity,
tribe, gender or belief;

4.5. A media organisation shall meticulously monitor the content of
its social media platforms to stop the spread of hate and inciting
messages;

4.6. A broadcast medium shall, prior to a recorded or a live political
debate, request participants to endorse a NO-HATE-SPEECH
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING committing them NOT to
use words or gestures that disparage others on account of
disability, race, ethnicity, tribe, gender or belief.

Section 5.
5.0. Conflict Sensitivity
Violent conflicts are obstacles to the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections as they could lead to voters’ apathy and hinder the free performance of media roles and responsibilities during electoral processes.
Accordingly:

The responsibility of journalists
5.1. A journalist shall be conflict-sensitive and pro-actively report
early warning signals of possible outbreak of violent conflict
during elections;

5.2. A journalist shall work for the de-escalation of violent conflict
should they occur during elections;

5.3. A journalist shall give equitable opportunity to diverse sides of a
political or electoral conflict to state their case;

5.4. A journalist shall use temperate language and non-offensive
images in reporting political/electoral tensions and conflicts;

5.5. A journalist shall keep to the facts of a political/electoral
conflict;

5.6. A journalist shall be cautious in reporting figures and identities
of casualties of violent conflicts;
The responsibility of media organisations

5.7. A media organisation shall work for the reduction of conflict
and promote the common value of peace without
compromising the duty to inform;

5.8. A media organisation shall exercise good judgement in the
choice of news stories and headlines.

Section 6.
6.0. Monitoring & Implementation

6.1. A media organisation shall regularly monitor its election reports
to ensure compliance with the standards set out in this Nigerian
Media Code of Election Coverage

6.2. The organisations endorsing this document agree to make use of
internal mechanisms including the office of the ombudsman, the
ethics and disciplinary committee etc to ensure implementation.

Section 7.
7.0. Binding provisions/effective date of operation:

7.1. The regulations in this code were adopted on the 30th day of
October, 2014 by:
• Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN)
• Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)
• Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE)
• Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON)
• Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria
(RATTAWU)
• Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ)
• Media Rights Agenda (MRA)
• International Press Centre (IPC)

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