Ahead of the September 19 gubernatorial elections in Edo State, the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos- Nigeria has urged journalists and other media professionals covering the elections to ensure that their personal safety is given top priority.
IPC Executive Director, Mr. Lanre Arogundade sounded this note of caution in the light of the emerging accusations and counter accusations by political actors and other players in the electoral process about possible violence.
In a statement signed by IPC Program Officer/Safety Alert Officer, Melody Lawal, the IPC Director noted that , though the signing of the peace accord has allayed fears, violence in elections is often unpredictable, so staying safe should be a priority.
“It is very important for journalists covering the Edo state election to be safety conscious in the discharge of their duties, and to avoid situations that will put them in harms way. Journalists should proactively balance eagerness for news with safety consciousness. If there is an outbreak of violence, journalists should ensure to stay safe and not be caught in the melee of violent disruptions.
“Journalists are also expected to be non-partisan. Being partisan is not only about being a member of a political party, but also includes the use of expressions and/or impressions with statements, tags, symbols and colours that portray or identify with a particular political party or personality”, Arogundade said.
While calling on other stakeholders, especially the security agencies to be very professional in carrying out their duties, he urged them to recognize the fact that the media is a critical factor for peaceful and credible elections.
“The security forces should note that the media is a critical part of the electoral process and so the media should be accorded due rights and privileges to enable them carry out their social obligations as partners in enshrining the credibility of the electoral process.
“Other stakeholders, including elections observers should also proactively provide journalists covering the elections with information to ensure that all work together for the credibility of the electoral process”, Arogundade added.
As part of initiatives to keep tab on the safety consciousness of journalists, IPC said that there are safety alert officers who journalists under threat/attack can report to. Arogundade said that in cases of attacks or insecurity issues, concerned journalists on the field can contact any of the following persons.
Melody Lawal (Safety Alert Officer, IPC) – 08132776441
Rosemary Nwaebuni, Safety of Journalists’ Monitor, (South South) – 08035146978
Mr. Arogundade also enjoined journalists to report any threats to the NUJ State Chapter.