South East Journalists Trained On Election Reporting In Enugu-Prof Ulasi
By Our Correspondent
“Let me appeal to all of you, the survival of our country, Nigeria lies in your hands as the media, if you decide to heat up the polity just to drive traffic online, no other country can survive if we all become refugees. You must collectively help to avoid an implosion, another war just because a few selfish politicians want it so.
“Today, I’m a Professor at the University of Texas in the United States of America, but I can tell you that nothing compares to the beautiful bond I shared with fellow children then in Maiduguri, before we left due to the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war.
“Though I hail from Nnewi in Anambra State, the first 11 years of my life spent in Maiduguri remains indelible, I lost friends and neighbours I may never see again”, those were the piercing words of Prof Chris Ulasi during a workshop for Journalists in the Southeast on Election Reporting.
The two days intensive workshop was organised by the West Africa Broadcast and Media Academy (WANMA), in conjunction with Enugu Literary Society (ELS), with support from the United States Consulate General Lagos. It held at the American corner within the University of Nigeria Enugu campus.
The Journalists were drawn from the print and broadcast while the resource persons were practitioners who had distinguished themselves in their craft.
Participants were drilled on topics which ranged from overview and ethics of political journalism, Investigative reporting for election coverage, ethnicity and religion in media and politics, interviews of political candidates and coverage of political rallies, and much more.
The resource persons comprised of Prof Lai Oso of the Communication School at the Lagos State University; Prof Chris Ulasi; Ken Okere, erstwhile Broadcaster and WABMA big wig; Grace Ekpu of Associated Press; and Ekene Odigwe, celebrated writer and Broadcaster.
Prof Ulasi said political journalism was a sacred arm which educates, dentertain, and act as watchdog adding that through them, the media raises agenda setting for the entire polity, saying they chose who people take seriously.
According to him, Journalists and Broadcasters must avoid biases, preferences and interests in the discharge of their duties especially because Nigeria as a secular state has diverse cultures, religions, ethnicity, which must be noted at all times.
For him, every Journalist must be resourceful, compassionate, and courageous saying it however does not replace safety because the life of practitioners is most important.
Prof Oso, popularly called Dean of Dean’s in his different sessions harped on the need for Journalists to suppress their biases for preferred candidates noting that the reports of the media determines how people will vote.
Oso called on the participants to maintain integrity, neutrality, balance their reports, be factual, and fair to all political parties, and always give women a voice in their reports.
According to him, Journalists must understand that they are making findings on behalf of the public saying “Consider conflict sensitive journalism in your reports, it will help you stay on track”.
Grace Ekpu of Associated Press exposes the audience to safety during elections.
She told Journalists to always have liquid milk in sachets handy during rallies and riots because it helps to keep the effects of tear gas to the barest minimum.
Ekpu said “After you gather all your gadgets, carry at least a sachet of liquid milk. If the police fire a tear gas, quickly pour it over your face. It will help you breathe and see in that situation”.
Further, she exposed the Journalists to important checks especially for live streaming and heavy videos for website upload.
Ekene Odigwe harped on the need for facts check before publication even as he maintained that many times, pictures, videos, and audio are altered to deliberately confuse the public saying the media must avoid it.
He taught participants on how to use Google reverse image, tineye search, to confirm pictures and videos before use and sharing, to detect misinformation.
According to him, Journalists can send in materials to the centre WABMA for fact checking as well as DUBAWA.
Ken Okere, drilled the trainees on media law, and how to avoid pitfalls in the discharge of their duties.
According to him, Journalists must avoid libel, slander, and all forms of defamation saying “just show the truth, don’t tell. The facts will speak and your audience will know the truth”.
Okere pointed out legal pitfalls to avoid in election coverage and harped on the need for safety no matter the situation.
He said “During coverage of political rallies, identify the police stand which may be safer. Don’t come off as an opposition Journalist. Just do your job professionally and don’t get involved in the biases. All candidates and parties must have confidence that you will give them audience rather than see you as biased for just a candidate or party”, Okere said.
Gbenga Sesan via zoom taught participants on pitfalls to avoid regarding digital safety as well as how to build strong passwords to safeguard their work.
The two days training afforded participants the opportunity to network, make new friends and even dance during a party organised by the United States Consulate.