December 17, 2014 – Practicing journalists in Nigeria have been called upon to think first about their safety and try as much as possible to be discreet in covering the 2015 general election.
Security experts and journalists made the plea at a roundtable on “Safety of Journalists during Elections”, put together by EKO FM chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).
The speakers were Head Human Security, Action Aid, Mr. Olajuyigbe Gbenro, former Editor Sunday Independent, Mr. Habib Aruna, Avese Assoh of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Founder African Journalists Foundation for Peace, Rev. Dr. Titus Oyeyemi , and a Lecturer at the Nigerian Institute of Journalists(NIJ), Mr. Kamil Ezenwa.
Delivering his keynote address at the event, Oyeyemi explained that since no one could foretell what the situation would be for journalists before, during and after the election, the need to voice out concerns for the safety of journalists and media practitioners is now more urgent than ever before.
“I therefore call on stakeholders to stay alert for any eventuality and where possible by raising appropriate awareness and by being vigilant to help nip in the bud any manner of conflict before they bloom into bloodshed and deadly violence”, he said.
He called on zonal offices of the NUJ to maintain and monitor intelligence reports on constant basis to prevent and protect members from running or becoming trapped or targeted for violent attacks.
“Corporate and individual journalists must have awareness of what to do , who to call, where to go in the case of chaos and violence. For example, if you are a journalists working in any part of a state, you must have all necessary contact information, not only in your mobile phone which may drop or be stolen, but somewhere else around you which cannot be easily taken away”, he advised.
Commenting on the same subject, Gbenro called on journalists to embark on situation analysis, vulnerability in terms of location, capacity in terms of security, intelligence and threshold of risk. He noted that journalists covering elections must be deployed well ahead of time.
He noted that covering elections must be anchored on a tripod of acceptable strategy, protection and deterrent. In his remarks, Ezenwa deplored the absence of developmental journalism. He however advocated for the law of self-preservation during election by refraining from divulging their identity.
He observed that non-payment of salary and lack of insurance policy is capable of compromising the journalists thus exposing him to risk adding that the journalist must live first to be able to tell the story.
In his part, Comrade Enakoko called on journalists to arm themselves with protective outfits, learn to be balanced and be neutral in their reports. He called on journalists never to travel alone and always move with means of identification and desist from travelling in the company of politicians. He advised journalists to take their safety serious and keep party affiliation hidden.
For Commissioner of Police Lagos State, Mr. Kayode Aderanti , safety of journalists during election lies in one simple slogans: “Watch what you say, how you say it and where you say it”.
Speaking through Divisional Police Officer, Alausa Police Station, Mr. Wale Ajao, he noted that mere introduction could land the journalist in trouble. “Don’t flaunt your profession everywhere. If you don’t understand your environment, your safety and security will be compromised”, he said.