Editors under the auspices of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) have pledged to help Nigerians make informed choices among aspirants and candidates ahead of the 2023 general elections.
They also affirmed their commitment to defending and promoting the cause of democracy and press freedom.
The editors stated this at the end of their Town Hall Meeting/Capacity Building Conference in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. The Port Harcourt meeting (the Southsouth edition), was the final leg of the conference. The NGF had held such parley in the other five geo-political zones.
The NGE said that having contributed immensely to the sustenance of democracy, including putting the lives of many of its members on the line – via constant harassment, brutalisation and death, its members are now more equipped and energised by the training to discharge their constitutional role of holding government accountable to people.
Commending the United State (U.S.) Embassy in Nigeria for sponsoring the regional training workshop for 350 editors across the six geopolitical zones, the editors urged the Embassy to also support step-down trainings for line editors and reporters.
In a communiqué signed by its President Mustapha Isah and the General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, the NGE explained that having consistently given their all in the defence of democracy, they had also resolved to take the gauntlet by sifting from the array of aspirants angling for elective office in order to ensure that the electorate get credible information to make informed choices.
The communique reads: “Editors have resolved to assist in ensuring those frivolous and unserious candidates, as well as those who have not demonstrated any capacity for leadership, are weeded out from the race.
“That ahead of the 2023 general election, editors should engage more with other stakeholders like civil society groups, the Independent National Electoral Commission, security agencies and others in deepening the democratic process. The editors should also ensure that the parties and their candidates are properly guided along issue-based campaigns and discourage campaigns anchored on exploring the ethnic, religious and regional divide that tend to put the country asunder.”
Noting that the media thrives better under a democratic rule, the NGE argued that the media has contributed significantly more than any section of the Nigerian society in enthroning, promoting and sustaining the cause of democracy in Nigeria.
It said: “While other sections of the society were pummeled under military dictatorship, the media stood like the rock of Gibraltar and had the effrontery to look the military in the eye.”
checking the information,” the editors said.
Noting that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) can assist the media to deal with the problem of anonymity of sources, particularly when confronted with legal matters, the editors said that there is a need for the media to make more use of the Act as part of the move to instil greater credibility on its stories.
Arising from the conversations at the conferences in the six geo-political zones, the editors said that while regulation of media practice will accord media professionals greater respect like other groups, pandering to the antics of a government, which has consistently shown abrasive zeal to hamstring the Nigerian media – to solely regulate the media, will be harmful to its survival.
The NGE said: “This is more so given its insidious use of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) codes to clamp down on stations that give vent to anti-government opinions.
“Editors agreed that the media should endeavour to regulate professional practice and also ensure proper corporate governance on the part of the owners of media houses, in order to guarantee adequate supply of working tools, better working environment and improvement in staff welfare.”
The editors commended the NGE leadership under Isah’s watch for “lifting the bar of engagement”’ via the training workshop, which has not only enriched their knowledge but also created a platform for further social networking amongst members.