Reasons Police, Security Agencies Must Protect Journalists, Those on Special Duty During 2023 Elections
- The chairman of the Federal Capital Territory Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists has said that journalists are partners in deepening democracy in Nigeria
- Emmanuel Ogbeche said this while speaking on the need for the police and other agencies to guarantee the safety of journalists during the 2023 elections
- According to Ogbeche, Nigeria's security agencies need to go beyond reviewing their code of conduct, organising seminars and workshops prior to every election to, ensure officers deployed for elections are on their best behaviour in line with INEC guidelines
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The Nigerian Police and other security agencies have been urged to ensure that all journalists and media workers on special duty are protected during the 2023 general election.
The chairman of the Federal Capital Territory Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Emmanuel Ogbeche, said it is important for the police and every security outfit across the country to understand that free press and the safety of all those on special duty at the poll is mandatory.
Speaking to Legit.ng, on Monday, January 30, Ogbeche said elections require the massive deployment of security and in preparation for that there is a need for intense awareness creation on the role of all the relevant agencies in the election.
The FCT NUJ scribe noted that it is heartwarming to know that the Nigeria Police seem to be hands on deck in that direction, especially with the launch of the reviewed manual of the Code of Conduct of the Police in January 2023 by the Inspector General of Police, IGP Baba Usman in Abuja.
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He, however, stated that policing during the election and the security of the voters and those on special duty, especially, members of the fourth estate of the realm goes beyond the launch of the police code of conduct or what is expected of the police and its officers.
"This goes beyond the launch of the police Code of Conduct or what is expected of the police, owing to the pervasive influence of corrupt politicians and the deployment of state apparatus by those in power.
"I am not too optimistic that the Code of Conduct will be of any effect towards free fair credible and non-harassment of journalists and other media workers during the polls."
Police preparation in an electioneering cycle
Further speaking on efforts made by the leadership of the Nigeria Police in every election cycle in the country, Ogbeche suggested that the drive should go beyond the ritual of holding workshops, training and seminars to focusing on security operatives conducting themselves during the polls.
"However, looking at the statistics of abuse, harassment and intimidation, you will agree with me that optimism can't be that high.
"For instance, the international press centre in its 2019 report on the elections shows that there were over 49 reported cases - mind you reported - of harassment, intimidation, arrests on journalists and media workers during that period.
"Also, if you look at the report of Reporters Without Borders that shows the shrinking of media space in Nigeria; the report even went as far as describing Nigeria as one of the most dangerous places in West Africa to be a journalist, you will begin to have a clearer picture of the situation."
All hope is not lost as the 2023 election draws near
In addition, the FCT council's NUJ chairman said his office has been working with relevant stakeholders to ensure the safety of all journalists who would be covering the 2023 elections.
He also advised journalists billed to cover the 2023 polls to abide by the existing Code of Practice, the guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and be duly kitted before hitting the road for duty.
"However, all hope is not lost, as the NUJ and other critical media stakeholders have been engaging with the authorities on the safety of journalists and other media workers during the 2023 elections.
"Journalists themselves need to abide by the existing Code of Practice, INEC guidelines and whatever regulatory frameworks available on how to report elections, media coverage and above all be sensitive about religious and cultural peculiarities where they operate.
"For the elections proper, it is important that journalists that desire to cover the election are duly accredited by INEC so that we don't have the assumption that your press ID card will grant access on election day.
"Furthermore, journalists should properly be kitted with their visible IDs and press jackets were necessary, be conscious of their environment and not for any reason play the hero when there is crisis on election day. It is better to report the news than become the news."
Expectations from police, military and other security agencies
Continuing, Ogbeche added that the police and other security agencies should recognise that journalists and media workers are partners in deepening democracy.
"They should be patient and accord them all necessary assistance and courtesies."
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