Nigeria Decides: Fate of journalists

Nigeria Decides: Fate of journalists

As Nigerians across board head to the polls to exercise their civic duty in the 2019 general elections in less than 24 hours, it is important to note that attacks on journalists and observers covering the elections are a crime against democracy.

The Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism has deployed over 100 trained observers to the 36 states of the country including the Federal Capital Territory ahead of the general elections and the Media Freedom project of the centre is alerting other stakeholders on the necessity of allowing journalists do their work unimpeded; and reminds journalists on the importance of ethical conduct during the election period so as to reduce the incidences of attacks on journalists and observers during elections.

The Press Attack Tracker, a civic technology tool that tracks attacks against the press across the country, confirms over 50 reported cases of electoral violence on Nigerian Journalists in years past. The media continues to pay a great price, with journalists being intimidated, harassed and sometimes killed. There have been cases of political groups and individuals attacking and vandalizing media houses owing to disputes over coverage, especially in controversial situations.

The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) confirms that there are 116 groups of domestic observers and 28 groups of foreign observers.

Below are approved responsibilities for Journalists during the elections.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF ACCREDITED JOURNALISTS

All accredited journalists and allied staff have the right to cover ALL election procedures within their respective jurisdictions for which they have been accredited. They are required to sign the attendance register for poll officials at the polling unit they cover. However, journalists accredited to cover the elections are expected to strictly abide by all laws and INEC Regulations and Guidelines and all Rules and Codes from relevant Regulatory Bodies as well as the ethics of the profession

  1. Journalists are to:
    1. All accredited journalists are required to display their photo identification tags issued by the Commission at all times during the Polling Day.

    2. Be at the Polling Unit from the opening of poll on Election Day to observe all stages of the polling process – from voter accreditation, through the voting period, to the counting of ballot papers and pasting of results – provided they do not interfere with polling processes or compromise the voters statutory right to secrecy of his/her vote.

    3. Move around the Polling Units as long as their movements do not obstruct the flow of voters or the work of poll officials, interview voters, observers or other persons within the polling environment without interfering with the polling process

    4. Observe the deployment of sensitive materials and the retrieval of used and unused sensitive materials after the polling processes.

  2. Journalists are not allowed to:

    1. Film or take photographs of any individual within the polling zone without his/her consent.

    2. Film or photograph any voter marking a ballot paper.

    3. Photograph, acquire pictures, film footage or audio commentary that reveals personal details of the voter.

    4. Film, photograph or copy the Register of Voters, Voter Cards or any other document(s) as would infringe on the privacy of any voter;

    5. Handle any polling material.

Note: Only accredited media representatives will be allowed free movement or access to polling units, collation centres, or any INEC office facility.

LINE OF AUTHORITY/OBEDIENCE TO LAWFUL DIRECTIONS

Accredited journalists, like everybody else in the polling environment, shall be subject to the directions and control of the Presiding Officer.

PTCIJ believes that the survival of democracy is tied intricately to a free press and thus advocates for stakeholders and citizens alike to protect journalists as well as report any form of harassment or attack against journalists during this election period.

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