Anambra election: Journalists demand security for media houses

JOURNALISTS have demanded beefed-up security for media houses in Anambra State ahead of the November 6 governorship election in the south-eastern state.

The media practitioners made the demand on October 15 in Abuja at a training workshop organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) to promote a peaceful and credible conduct of the gubernatorial election.

Participants at the workshop, who were largely drawn from Anambra-based media organisations, disclosed that journalists were being threatened by pro-Biafra agitators who would not want the governorship poll to hold.

Pro-Biafra separatists, who want the breakaway of the South-East and some other parts of country to form an independent state of Biafra, have declared that the Nigerian government would not organise any election in the territories of the defunct Republic of Biafra.

Several killings and attacks on government facilities, believed to be carried out by the separatists, have been recorded in Anambra in the build-up to the elections.

There are also insinuations that politicians involved in the governorship poll are behind the violence in the state.

The development has led to concerns that the election might not go ahead as scheduled but the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has insisted on going ahead with the poll.

To ensure the success of the election, INEC has said it wants security beefed up in over 6,000 locations during the poll.

The Nigerian Police Force has also announced that it would deploy over 34,000 officers for the poll.

In various presentations at the training workshop on October 15, journalists insisted that security should also be beefed up around media houses which would be left with the unenviable task of defying the separatists’ ‘no election’ directive by urging people to come out on election day and vote.

In an interview with The ICIR moments after the workshop, one of the participants, Ijeoma Uba, a radio presenter, said media houses in Anambra State required adequate security to be able to effectively discharge their role in the election process.

“There is a high level of insecurity in the South-East at the moment and the pro-Biafra agitators are insisting that there will be no election in Anambra State.

“On the days they ordered sit-at-home, despite assurances from the government and security agencies, we saw buses that came out being burnt, students that went to school were harassed, we saw schools being vandalised because they opened for studies.

“Now, if media houses should go on and encourage voters to come out and vote, they (media houses) will be directly going against the directive that election will not hold. Going by what has been happening so far, there is every likelihood that media houses would be attacked for asking people to come out and vote. That is our fear and that is why we are asking for measures to ensure that media houses are protected.”

* Journalists are being threatened

Uba, a radio presenter, disclosed that journalists, particularly presenters, were being threatened for airing messages supporting the governorship election.

Shedding further light on the challenges faced by media practitioners in the build-up to the poll, she said, “Already the situation is becoming frustrating for journalists. Many can no longer go to work freely. Some stations can no longer open up their phone lines for members of the audience to call in because of fear.

“So far, we have not heard of any attack on journalists or media houses but we have cases where media houses are threatened by the pro-Biafra agitators. Presenters on radio programs have been threatened by people who call in during the show and it is very worrisome.

“These are direct threats that come in over the phone lines and we don’t know how far these people would go if the media houses start campaigning that people should come out and vote.”

Uba’s fears are heightened by the inability of the government and security agencies to protect people that defied the sit-at-home order.

“Going by what has happened to schools, markets and other institutions which were attacked for not complying with the sit-at-home order, we are not sure the media houses will be safe.

“What are the security agencies doing to ensure that media houses are protected, since we are going to work as partners in the election? That is our concern.”

* INEC, not media houses, should drive voter turn-out campaign

Added to the demand for security beef-up at media houses, journalists at the workshop also said INEC should effectively take up the responsibility of sensitising the people of Anambra on the need to come out and vote on election day.

Uba told The ICIR that the task of campaigning for voter turnout should not be left for the media houses, as was the situation at the moment.

“We want organised security, and also it would be better if INEC enlightenment officers would come to the broadcast stations and be the ones calling on people to come out and vote so that the responsibility is taken away from the media houses.

“Let INEC be the one calling on people to come out and vote and let them be the ones assuring that if people come out to vote, they will be protected.

“Passing the responsibility to media houses is not proper,” the radio presenter said.

The training workshop featured opening remarks by CDD Director Idayat Hassan, and presentations on how the police and the media, as well as INEC and the media, could work together to ensure a successful election.

There were also presentations on how the media could address electoral challenges, particularly voter apathy.



    In a communique released after the workshop, signed by Ify Unachukwu and Uche Chukwuedo, among others, participants stressed the need for free and fair governorship election in Anambra.

    They also called for improved synergy between INEC and the media, as well as the need for security agencies, especially the Police, to improve security without resorting to human rights violations.

    The communique added that the media would demand accountability from all stakeholders in the election process.

    It was also resolved that November 4 would be tagged ‘Anambra Election Media Peace Day,’ when all media houses would campaign for a free, fair and peaceful poll.

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