2023: Journalists demand creation of election offences committee

By Athan Agbakwuru

Ahead of the February and March 2023 elections in Nigeria, a cross-section of journalists in the South East geopolitical zone have advocated the establishment of an Election Violence and other Electoral Offences Committee in the country.

The journalists made the call in a communique issued at the end of a one-day capacity-building workshop for journalists in the South East held in Owerri, Imo State on Thursday organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in collaboration with the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Imo State Council.

In the document signed by Comrade Charles Nwankwo, Vivian Iwu and Chuks Anyanwu, the participants pointed out that the electoral offences committee has become imperative in view of the need to bring perpetrators of violence and other electoral offences are brought to book to discourage escalation.

The media practitioners remarked that the 2023 elections were crucial to the peace and stability of Nigeria, and pointed out that the committee, when created, would assist in addressing malpractices and violence associated with elections in recent years and curb the menace.

The group also noted that considering the countless number of journalists, other media workers as well as armless citizens that have either “lost their lives or sustained various degrees of injuries or had their equipment damaged during electioneering periods” and the perpetrators go unpunished afterwards, setting up the committee before 2023 polls is necessary now.

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The participants assured of their readiness to partner with the INEC and other relevant stakeholders for the smooth conduct of the polls come 2023.

The participants urged journalists to ensure they get acquainted with the code of media coverage for the polls and resist the temptation of shirking their responsibilities to society for feat or favour.

They further called on media organizations to equip and provide needed logistics to their editorial staff to enable them to live up to public expectations while stressing the need for journalists to be factual in reportage, avoid hate speech, sensational reports and play safe on duty.

The communique also enjoined newsmen not to rely on social media offerings as their reports could be misleading because most of the operators of the new media are not trained journalists.

Papers presented at the workshop include; “The Electoral Act 2022 and the 2023 General Election,” by Mrs O.O. Babalola, INEC Director, Legal Drafting and Clearance Department; “INEC New Technologies for 2023 General Election” by Raymond Ofuonye and “The Media and the 2023 General Election” by Fidel Onyeneke, former chairman of Imo NUJ.

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