The Nigerian Press Council (NPC) and the International Press Centre (IPC) have released the report of their monitoring of the reportage of 2015 elections by selected national and regional newspapers, online media and social media platforms for the month of March 2015.
The organizations described the exercise as crucial as it was the month that the presidential elections took place.
“While it was expected that the concerned 12 national newspapers, seven regional newspapers, four online media and three social media platforms would animatedly cover the electioneering process, the underlining hope was that they would do so with the desired compliance with professional and ethical standards”, the two organizations said in a statement.
They reiterated that the overarching objective that informed the support received by the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) and the International Press Centre (IPC) from the United Nations Development Programme’s Democratic Governance for Development Project (UNDP-DGDIII) and its partners including the EU, the UK AID, the Canadian Department for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFTAD) and the UNDP for the monitoring project was the need for the media to facilitate credible and peaceful elections.
As was done in previous months (January and February), the media monitoring exercise for the month of March examined the diversity of the sources for the relevant reports being a sine qua non for credibility; the extent of the conflict sensitivity of the relevant reports to assess commitment to peaceful conduct of polls and the use of language to determine if there was compliance with professional codes requiring avoidance of hate speech.
The monitoring also focused on the issues reported to know the priority areas as well as the depth of the reporting of the election management body – INEC.
In the extract of the major findings and outcomes of the monitoring, the organizations observed that:
The monitored newspapers commendably and deservedly put campaign issues at the apex of their reporting for the month. This also represented a willingness to assist the voters to make informed choices at the polls.
It was however observed that the percentage of coverage devoted to voter education was rather low at 13 per cent for the national newspapers and 8.4 per cent for the regional newspapers especially being the election month when there were renewed agitations over the voting process and the use of card readers.
It was also observed that the pattern of the reporting of the political parties was consistent with the fact that coverage was again skewed in favour of the two biggest political parties – PDP and APC – which apparently deployed more human and material resources for the campaigns.
“The nature of the reporting by the national newspapers reflected the fact that it was the election month as there was an increase in the use of political parties as sources from 929 in February to 1,213. The reverse was however the case for the regional newspapers as the use of political parties as sources reduced from 516 in February to 386 in March.”
Another point noted was the predominant use of male politicians as sources. However, there was improvement in the use of female politicians as sources from 133 in February to 239 (in March) in the national newspapers.
In the regional newspapers, it increased from 43 to 67 while in the monitored online media, the number increased from just 2 in February to 17.
Bearing in mind that there were more male candidates than females, this was a fair indication of inclination to gender supportive reporting in the election month although all the monitored media could still done much better.”
Reduction in the reporting of the issues of youths in the national newspapers from 95 in February to 34 was also noticed. But there was an increase of the issues of persons living with disabilities from 9 to 24.
In the regional media, the issues of youths increased from the 20 recorded in February to 26 but that of people living with disabilities reduced from 11 to 8. There was poor use of the issues of youths and persons living with disabilities in the online media.
The national newspapers again devoted significant attention to the reporting of early warning signals as part of commitment to the peaceful conduct of polls. But sensational headlines went up to seven from five in the previous month while there were lots of avoidable inciting statements and political advertorials with hate undertones which did not show the required conflict sensitivity in an election month.
Only Peoples Daily showed commitment to reporting early warning signals among the regional newspapers, which should not have been the case as all newspapers were supposed to be concerned about peaceful conduct of polls. The online and social media platforms did well by neither publishing sensational headlines nor hate speeches.
As it should be during an election month, the national newspapers were on top of reporting the issues that troubled the electorate and obtaining feedback from INEC. This explains why the combined reports on complaints, demands and response accounted for about 87 per cent of relevant news items on the election management body by both the national and regional newspapers. The coordinating groups described this development as commendable.
The monitored newspapers were also praised for their robust engagement with the electoral process as reflected in the quantum of news items, photos, opinions and features published on pre and immediate post election activities.
The social media platforms demonstrated a good sense of conflict sensitivity while they performed well in according priority to the issue of voter education since March was the election month.
The national dailies surveyed were The Guardian; Daily Sun; Vanguard; The Nation; National Mirror; ThisDay; Daily Independent; Nigerian Tribune; Daily Trust; Leadership; The Punch; and Daily Champion.
The regional newspapers were People’s Daily; Nigerian Pilot; Nigerian Observer; Nigerian BluePrint; Nigerian Chronicle; and The Abuja Inquirer. While the four online publications were Premium Times; The Cable; Sahara Reporters; and The Tide, the social media platforms were INEC; EiE, Nigeria; and ReclaimNaija.