Professor Umaru Pate, Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Kashere, Gombe State, said elections in Nigeria have always not been violent-free, adding the 2023 elections may not be different.
He stated this while giving a keynote address at a symposium organised by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) on Tuesday in Abuja.
In his address themed: Election 2023: Security, Media and Safety, Pate stated that Nigeria’s elections are highly competitive, characterised by tension, anxiety and violence, hence, independent investigative journalism involving politics, terrorism or financial embezzlement by the powerful individuals has always been a risky and often dangerous venture. “That may not change in 2023,” he noted.
Professor Pate stated that media despite helping in early warning signs for authorities to take proactive measures and generate ideas that set the agenda for the politicians, because of existing conflicts, polarisations and other social divisions in the country, elections can be prone to violence.
According to Pate, Nigerian journalists operate in the midst of ethnic, religious and political intrigues compounded by poor funding, low remuneration, professional ethical breaches and corruption. “in many cases, female journalists face the double jeopardy of professionalism and gender,” he stated.
He added that the tension and violence in Nigeria often impact media freedom and the safety of journalists in many forms of personal and organisational risks.
Professor Pate bemoaned how journalists covering gubernatorial and state assembly elections were detained, harassed, and assaulted by security agents across many states and in some instances, journalists monitoring elections are forced to delete visual evidence of election malpractices, while the perpetrators go unpunished.
He said without a protected professional journalism, independent reporting on wrongdoing in elections cannot be possible.
Pate, however, called for strong institutional collaborations and partnerships with agencies, CSOs and community alliances and to uphold investigative and data-driven journalism, advising journalists to be fully informed about security issues and to take care of themselves during any assignment.
Speaking virtually, Jonathan Rozen of the Center for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) from the United States, noted that it is unfortunate that during elections, numerous politically-related clashes are documented.
One of the panellists, Dr Peter Afunaya representing the Department of State Services (DSS), called on journalists to work in a manner that consolidates unity by sticking to their functions.