Nonsochukwu Uwa, Owerri
The Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, on Thursday called on the members of the Nigeria Guild of Editors, to restrain themselves from the temptation of publishing unofficial results in the 2023 general election.
Uzodimma made this call in Owerri, while declaring open the 18th edition of the 3-day, All Nigeria Editors Conference in the state.
The governor’s stand was that publishing unofficial results of the election could throw a state or the country into a full blown anarchy.
Speaking on the theme: “2023: Political Landscape, Credible Election and the Role of Editors,” at the Nigeria Guild of Editors 2022 Conference, Uzodimma said: “I know that some of you will want to remind me that in your calling “facts are sacred” and must be treated as such. I do agree with you on this, but I am not asking you not to report the facts as they are. Far from it. The point to be made, however, is that how you report the facts does matter a lot, and can make all the difference. When divisive facts are splashed as screaming banner headlines, they are bound to bring the populace to boiling point. But, when the same facts are played down in the order of reports, they may not have the same bang effect. This is my humble take. So, I submit that as editors you have a patriotic duty to manage these sacred facts for the ultimate good of our dear country.
“The other point to make is that media management of election proper can also have soothing or devastating consequences on the outcome of the elections. For instance, the unethical practice of announcing or publishing unverified or unofficial versions of election results, especially while the election is yet to be completed, could influence the public to assume a position even before the official declaration of the results. Thereafter, if the official result differs from the results they expected, it could be an invitation to anarchy. Here, again, I think that as leaders of the media you have a duty to restrain your institutions from speculating on the results of elections.
“The final point I want to make on this score is the need for you, as editors, to dispassionately distance yourselves from proprietorial interest, and be guided instead by national interest. When you allow the proprietorial interest of your media outfit to overshadow your editorial or professional interest, you will be doing a disservice not only to the nation, but to your professional integrity. The danger here is that often these proprietorial interests are self serving. Some are meant to serve ethnic or religious interests. So when you wittingly or unwittingly subscribe to them, you are subscribing to the divisive tendencies that threaten the very fabric of our national unity. Sadly, this impacts negatively on your professional integrity as an objective reporter or even commentator. Here, I would like to remind you of the motto of the Nigerian Guild of Editors: “To unite editors and promote ethical practices in the media.
“As it goes without saying that as one of the rare professions that has a constitutional role to play, journalists are in a real position not only to mould and shape opinions, but to be a beacon in the developmental template for the nation. When there is doubt, you should offer hope. When there is dissension, you should proffer consensus. And when selfishness and clannishness throw up their ugly heads, you should wave the flag of unity. This is vital as we seek to build a united, prosperous and stronger republic,” he submitted.
He continued: “As a friend of the media, I also owe you the bitter truth. Therefore, let me tell you to your faces that I hold the view that journalists have been failing the nation as far as being the rallying point of unity is concerned. I am horrified to admit that some sections of the press have been at the forefront of inflaming passion in Nigeria through their sensational and combative posturing in the name of dissemination of information. I know that your primary duties are to inform, educate and entertain.
“But in the execution of this huge responsibility, some journalists have sacrificed objectivity and allowed themselves to be taken captive by emotional, tribal and religious cleavages. While I concede that it may be utopian to obtain absolute objectivity, some of you no longer make efforts to even be subjectively objective. I think this is where you as editors come in as the final gatekeepers. With the advent of the social media, I know that you have been stretched in maintaining a balance between facts and opinions.”
Earlier in his remark, the President of the Nigeria Guild of Editors, Mustapha Isah, who commended the governor for accepting to host the event in Imo, however, added that “Uzodimma is the first to host the Nigeria Guild of Editors in the South-East region.”
He added: “The theme was carefully and craftily chosen given the nation’s upcoming election which will mark another water shed in the role of the media in the sustainable of democracy. The media were in the forefront of the passage of the electoral Act and we want an issue based campaign in the forth coming election.”