By Progress Godfrey, Abuja
The International Press Centre, IPC, has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and law enforcement agencies to ensure the security of journalists in the course of carrying out electoral duties.
The Executive Director of the IPC, Lanre Arogundade, made this call in Abuja on Tuesday during a “stakeholders’ roundtable on the media monitoring report on coverage of 2023 electoral process and public presentation of Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage (revised edition 2022).”
Arogundade said the call became necessary owing to the outcome of ICP’s monitoring of print newspapers and online media in the 2019 elections in which about 250 journalists were molested. He said the engagement was to X-ray the performance of the media and the challenges, stressing the need for government and political parties to ensure that journalists were always protected, especially during pre- and post-election.
He said, “In 2019, even journalists that were accredited were molested by security agencies, so we are using this occasion to draw the attention of INEC, government; particularly the security agencies and the political parties to their responsibilities if they want us to cover this election effectively. For example, it would be wrong for any political party or candidate to deny any of us access to their public events because the ‘Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage’ says they should give us access. Where some of them believe that we are not doing what is right, what we are saying is; make use of the regulatory mechanisms to upload your complaints, do not go after individual journalists who are on the field, that is very very important.
“About 250 journalists were molested across the country in 2019 including some of them who were accredited, particularly by overzealous law enforcement agencies. Among the 250 attacked were those covering election campaigns.”
He, therefore, appealed to the security and law enforcement agencies that what happened in 2019 should not repeat itself. “If a journalist is accredited and is able to show evidence of accreditation and the identity card of his or her organization or that of the Nigerian Union of Journalists or Guild of Editors, any policeman or soldier on election duty should know that the journalist is not a busy body and therefore should not be molested in any way, ” the Executive Director added.
He underscored the need for journalists to take note of risk factors and exercise their rights to protection and safety as contained in the document presented.
“If you’re being asked to go and cover elections in an area where there is crisis or outbreak of violence, as individual journalists, we have the right to demand insurance cover from our employer because these things can happen. We have what is called the risk factors in the coverage of elections so it’s our right. It is also our right to check our health status: don’t say because you’re looking good you’re okay, make sure you see your physician before you go out to the field. And if your physician says you need to rest, tell your editor that you need to rest.
“Sometimes violence breaks out during campaigns but some of us are so eager to say we want to cover it well. Be very careful, you have to maintain your distance because we don’t want anything to happen to us,” he said.
Arogundade further lamented that beyond elections, journalists in Nigeria are facing lots of threats, adding that nine journalists have been killed, and nothing has been done about it; “no investigations, talk less of prosecution of the killers.”
He, therefore, called on journalists to get in touch with the IPC in cases of attack so the relevant agencies can be informed promptly.