Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has advised journalists and election administrators from West African countries to undertake their various responsibilities faithfully, ethically and professionally.
Yakubu gave the advice at the opening of a two-day Media workshop on the reporting of elections in the ECOWAS region on Monday in Abuja, organised by ECOWAS Network of Electral Commissions (ECONEC).
Yakubu, represented by INEC Commissioner, Dr Mustapha Lekki, said not doing so could lead to hard consequences too dire to contemplate.
He stressed the need for media practitioners not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
“We are all witnesses to the havoc poorly conducted elections and provocative reportage have caused us in this region.
“We should do all in our power to avoid a repeat.”
Yakubu said that as the fourth estate of the realm, the media was the gatekeeper to ensure transparency and accountability in the electoral process.
“This is in addition to their primary role of informing the public on all activities, time-lines and dos and don’ts as well as providing platforms for discourse.
“The media remains the most reliable instrument through which all electoral issues involving participation and inclusive are encouraged.
“There is no doubt therefore that the media is an important stakeholder and partner.”
He described the workshop as the third in series of ECONEC engagements concerning elections in the West Africa sub-region.
Yakubu gave assurance of ECONEC and INEC commitment to promoting peaceful, free, fair and credible elections in the sub-region.
“As I always say, on the long run, it is cheaper and better to go down this path with ECONEC than bringing in ECOMOG.”
An electoral expert and National Commissioner, Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC), Miatta French, stressed the need for journalists to be abreast of global, continental and regional laws formulated to promote free and fair elections.
French said such laws had helped a lot in improving the electoral development region.
She also stressed the political will to implement the laws and regulations in the region.
Mrs Eugenia Abu, a former Executive Director, Programmes of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), in a paper, advised journalists in the West Africa sub-region to be aware of their civic responsibilities.
Abu said it was not enough to have flow of information on elections, saying how media covered an election determined where it was successful or otherwise.
She said that media role in election reporting included civic education, provision of space for gender awareness, monitoring electoral process and reporting election results responsibly.
Abu also advised journalists to fact check their reports on elections.