Goodwill Message from the Democratic Governance for Development Project Director at the International Media and Election ConferenceSep 26, 2013
Speech delivered at the Rockview Royal Hotel, Abuja
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this International Experience Sharing Conference on Media and Elections. The conference is timely and important because durable democracies depend on respect for constitutionalism, the rule of law, strong civil societies, and a free press, the lifeblood of democratic politics.
A report by the Reuters Foundation and UNESCO on media and elections states: ‘Elections are the cornerstone of any democracy, and the media has a vital role -- in informing the public about what the politicians are promising, in telling the politicians what ordinary people want, or do not want, and in ensuring that the polls are “free and fair’ (The Media and the Election Process, Reuters Foundation/UNESCO).
Indeed, the media plays a crucial role in keeping citizens engaged in the business of governance, and healthy political processes require pluralism and open communication. By providing a vibrant and free environment for communication, debate and deliberation, the media helps to establish good governance and to promote more accountable leadership.
The DGD project, funded by the European Union (EU), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and UNDP, provides technical and financial support to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), civil society organizations and institutions such as the Media, and Political Parties as a means of strengthening accountable and responsive institutions, and consolidating democratic governance in line with international best practices. Recognising the criticality of the media as an electoral stakeholder, the DGD programme has embedded engagement with media as a primary focus under Pillar 4 of its programme, which focuses on strengthening channels of civic engagement.
Elections are composed of a number of integrated building blocks, with different stakeholders interacting and influencing each other. Electoral components and stakeholders do not stand alone. They are interdependent and this presents very specific and complex challenges: which include:
• A lack of understanding between electoral stakeholders of each others’ proper (and actual) roles and processes
• Conflicting expectations of the media’s role during the election period, for example political parties’ preoccupation with dominating media space, compared with EMBs’ focus on utilisation on media as a voter education tool, or compared with public expectations of the media to act as a critical watchdog and accountability mechanism
• The continued focus on short-term support to media around elections, with limited preparation and follow-up – this continues to undermine the potential for effectively building the media’s role as a critical transparency and accountability mechanism throughout the electoral cycle
In responding to these challenges, I hope that this conference will consider some of the following:
• Building a community of practice around media and elections, along with continued dialogue between stakeholders
• The integration of specialist political and electoral reporting in long term media programmes
• The adoption of ICT and new media technologies to ensure an interactive link between media and its audience and to allow for the integration of real-time social media reporting of important electoral updates
• Going beyond the election period to incorporate longer-term media capacity goals, specifically journalistic knowledge, skills and practices around fulfilling their essential role as political watchdog.
It is our hope that, as we look to the 2015 elections, this workshop will be a contribution to the process of addressing challenges and identifying opportunities for constructive, creative and positive engagement with media stakeholders.
I look forward to the outcomes of the conference and wish to reaffirm that DGD and its international partners are united in their commitment to support Nigeria’s progress towards the attainment of its democratic development objectives.