Tuesday, August 23, 2011

‘Nothing Looks Like Daylight in Election Reporting’

Election reporting in most West African nations is akin to walking along a tree-covered-street at night in which nothing looks like daylight, since everything seems to rely on the dictates of the electioneering authorities”. 
These were the thoughts of Chief Foanyi Nkemayang, a well known Cameroonian Veteran journalist and Chief Executive Officer of the Star Media in Cameroon.
He was presenting a paper titled “Media Ethics in Election Reporting in West Africa” at the just-concluded Commonwealth forum at the Sheraton Hotel and Spa in Brufut.
The Cameroonian veteran journalist said that most journalists involved in election reporting have had to be harassed or beaten up because of the editorial policy of their media houses, or they hav decided to be partisan in their reporting.

He continued that “even non-partisan journalists have been arm-twisted for not supporting the party in power,
Hear him further: “We as journalists, should be determined more than ever before to tell the people what they must hear and what they should know by fearlessly and couragerously embracing our profession as journalists, notwithstanding the tortuous and bumpy road.” 
Journalist Nkemayang Paul then urged journalists to come out forcefully and perform their functions without fear or favour in consonance.
He then quoted the wise saying of one of American’s most venerated President and Journalist, Mr. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspaper or newspaper without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Chief Nkemayang believed from the aforementioned wise quotation, then there is no gainsaying the fact that the pen is mightier than the sword.
 Elections, he said, bring politicians close the media, and as a result of which the image of the profession has been profoundly tarnished with some surmountable problems recorded.
As a result of politicians been close to the media, many are now gentlemen of the profession, nowadays who hold the opinion that the expression ‘media ethic’ is a very loose term comparable to a debased currency in a marketplace, he opined.
Dilating on ethics, CEO Chief Nkemayang Paul told the audience that ethics could simply be defined as philosophizing human conduct in the mannerism of acceptable behavior in the way human beings manage their daily lives and the things that human beings do.
“By ethics we mean magnanimity, discipline, honesty, pragmatism and truth,” he positioned.
Again, politics, he held, is the field in which very few personalities apply ethics in the discharge of their herculean task of nation building.
However, some politicians, he went on, prefer rigging to transparent elections, the bullet to the ballot, and the authoritarianism to democratic rulership. He also noted that the vast majority prefers the golden approach of victory through the ballot box.
He underlined that in the noble profession of journalism, ethics is the golden rule, the success story, the kick-starter, and the “be-all and be-end” of practice when the canons of responsible journalism are put in motion.
Chief Nkemayang Paul argued that the professional ethics of journalists nowadays, should be viewed and reviewed properly, reminding that journalists are the watch-dog of the society.
To him, it is a forgone conclusion that some journalists could not be relied upon with regards to election reporting, chiding, “some will shamelessly tell electorate that they cannot operate in an empty stomach”.
 “Indeed, journalists abuse the ethics of their profession and operate according to the whims and caprices of their pay masters,” he pointedly told the gathering, among whcih were senior journalists.
The examples, he gave were that in many West African countries, more particularly in most Francophone countries, journalists of the private media work and live in an atmosphere of severe misery, thus the omnipotence and omnipresence of state-owned public media.                           
However, he acknowledged that there are equally some incorruptible and reliable level-headed media practitioners in West Africa who have stood the litmus test of professional excellence. 
In addition, they are the ones who have also remarkably proven their prowess at election reporting by doing their job without blemish, but only telling the whole truth and nothing but three truth, the veteran vouched. 
He further described those journalists as “gentlemen” who know that when people cast their votes for an individual, they do so with the belief that they are doing it for one in whom they want to entrust their lives, their future and the one of their unborn children. 
Such journalists, he continued, are the ones who are committed to excellence.
Chief Nkemayang Paul sharing his  own experience with the audience, in terms of election reporting, said his conclusion is that media practitioners who have not had formal training  are mostly the ones involved in the disgraceful practice of ‘bread and butter’ journalism.
“They tilt stories, manipulate and doctor figures in their reports either to satisfy the highest bidder or work in line with the editorial policy of their media houses,” he debunked.
Therefore, it is a sacrilege, albeit an abomination,to find a journalist murdering the truth for gifts of any kind, he chided.
And he observed that that is exactly what most politicians in this part of the world anticipate and cherish,while urging that  this is  what journalists  should guard against when assigned for election reporting.
According to the Cameroonian veteran journalist, the success or failure of journalist at election reporting is largely dependent on some key indicators, which he outlined as: the state of mind of the journalist; lack of access to sources of information; lack of effective communication; poor wages for journalists; and th editorial line of the media house.
Again, cosmetic training in the media profession, favouritism, tribalism, nepotism, corruption, and intimidation, threats and victimisation among others, were cited by him.
In his recommendations, he called on governments to encourage freedom of expression and open up access to information  sources.
It is also his position that authorities should avoid intimidation, harassment and torture of professionals (journalists) who perform their assigned duties with diligently, dedicatedly and courageously.
He also posited that training and refresher courses should be encouraged in the media.
Unfavourable media laws should be regulated for the smooth operations of journalists in Africa, he strongly recommended to governments. 
For media houses, he recommended that media gurus should ensure regular payment of wages to reduce the temptation of journalists having to fall prey to ‘bribes’ and ‘kickbacks’.
To journalists, he advised them to avoid despicable acts that sometimes push them to “obnoxious practices and abuse of ethics”.
 He stressed that journalists would win the hearts of many if only that journalist keep rendering their mea culpa {acknowledgement of error} in keeping with the tenets of the professionalism.
With those guidelines, he holds the belief that dedicated and hardworking journalists will certainly navigate to greater heights and print their names in the golden books of history.

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