Media, Regulatory Bodies Blamed For Negative Communication During Political Campaign

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Communication Experts have declared that all the blame for negative communication that trailed campaigns in the run-up to the February 25, presidential and legislative elections should be placed at the feet of media organisations and regulations.

This call was made at the third series of special virtual engagements on the 2023 presidential election campaigns with the theme: “Assessing the management and results of the 2023 presidential election campaign” jointly organised by Prime Business, Consortium of Nigerian Communication Experts, and The News Guru. Experts that made presentations also called on the media and various regulatory bodies to be alive to their responsibilities.

The virtual event was moderated by the Director of Prime Business Africa (PBA), Marcel Mbamalu; the Executive Director, of the Institute of Strategic and Development Communication at Nasarawa State University, Keffi; and the Chairman, of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Education Advisory Board, Prof. Emmanuel Danduara called on media players and regulatory bodies to adjust their activities to avert any breakdown of law and order.

Speaking during the session, the speakers that cut across players in advertising, the media, and academia talked about the level of communication during the campaigns, and how effective they were and concluded that the social media, were either not used properly, underused, or not used effectively for positive impacts. 

It was noted that the regulatory bodies did less in promoting positive communication, adding that prior to the election and post-election, the management of the ensuing crisis actually altered standards to be used and came up with wrong communication paths that marked up the country’s fault lines, ethnicity, and religion as evidenced in the messaging where personalities were attacked rather than focusing on issues based campaign.

Speakers also noted there was no liberal space for outdoor advertising, whereby some state governors, and some leaders, did not allow the opposition to pass across their messages. They also noted that most of the negative messages didn’t really go through approvals and called on regulatory bodies like the Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) and the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) to ensure that it does not happen in the future elections 

The experts also noted the impact of social media usage on the electorates, stressing that no matter how much they try to contain things in the traditional media space, they are being overwhelmed by what’s happening in the new media, because there’s no measure of control.

The experts agreed to invite the INEC and National Orientation Agency to be part of the fourth discourse, “because they have a lot to do in trying to change this narrative”, they concluded. 

In a communique issued at the end of the discourse, the group recommended that “political parties should appoint spokespersons that are experienced communication professionals, and as much as possible, and they should be duly registered members of Nigerian advertising and public relations bodies.

The communique went further: “INEC’s communication must improve its capacity to provide adequate public enlightenment and education on voting procedures to avoid such catastrophic failures in future elections.

“We brought together members of the African Council for Communication Education (ACCE), Association of Communication Scholars & Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN), Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN), Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

“So if we have all these organisations represented, it wouldn’t be difficult for us to agree on specific lines of direction that will bring everyone’s interests to the table. And that is the idea for what we are doing”.

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