(Recently I was invited to deliver a talk to reporters on reporting in elections. Here are some of the thoughts I shared with them for your appreciation.)
In almost every country in the world, the media play an important role during elections. Media work at such a time is not easy. In my country, for instance , the reporter is more or less like someone trapped between a lion and the deep sea.
Imagine yourself as a reporter with the lion behind you and the deep sea in front of you.
Without the help of God, the lion will devour you or you; and if you plunge into the deep sea, you will be devoured by crocodiles. Thus, you have to pray very hard and be as prudent as you can.
The job of reporting demands courage; but while displaying the needed courage, the reporter has to be wise and prudent.
Irrespective of the country, election time is the most important political season of the year during which power wolves fight fiercely to win power; fighting which often goes with incredible passion and bitterness. As someone has said, “heads and limbs do get broken; lives do get snuffed out.”
How are reporters required to face the challenge of informing the population before, during and after an election?
In other words, what is the role of the media with regard to informing the voters during an election?
My answer is reporters are required to respect the canons of the profession and refrain from playing roles that are not theirs, such as transforming themselves into campaign managers, public relation officers or propagandists for candidates.
It is very easy to step on dangerous toes while reporting during an election. This is more so in third world countries. Hence, prudence and wisdom are paramount.
You cannot see a solid wall and dash your head against it in the name of trying to get to the other side. You will shatter it.
You have to be intelligent to look for a way to go round the wall to the other side. That is being wise and prudent. This implies that Journalists who talk like parrots must weigh their words before they utter them.
Stick to facts, verifiable information. Do not say things that you are not sure of. Do not speculate or report things that you only imagine.
Avoid provocative statements. You are a reporter and not a supporter.