Better relations between Nigerian media and police to help secure peaceful elections

Nigerian journalists gathered ahead of elections on 16 February to focus on their safety and the production of reliable, professional reporting in support of peaceful elections

Over two days on 6-7 February, Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in partnership with International Media Support (IMS), and in collaboration with the Nigeria Union of Journalists gathered 35 senior journalists and editors received hands-on training on how to provide credible, efficient and professional coverage of the elections while staying safe.

Their safety very much relies on ensuring a good relationship based on mutual understanding with police and security forces. Unfortunately, history has shown that the relationship between media, police and security forces in connection with elections in many parts of Africa has often been characterised by frequent clashes arising from an inability of either side to fully appreciate the role of the other in society, particularly in democratic governance.

The training also focused on handling digital and cyber security issues to enable media to secure their online communications during the coverage of the elections.

Cross-country Police Experience-Sharing

This is not the first time that IMS, together with MFWA engage in strengthening relations between journalists and police and security forces in Africa. In 2018, IMS and MFWA published a handbook with best practices and experiences from Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia. To maximise on best practices learnt from previous media and police trainings, the top police commissioners from Ghana and Sierra Leone thus traveled to Nigeria on 7 February to share their experiences of election security management from their respective countries with 25 senior officers of the Nigeria Police Force who will be responsible for elections security.

The experience-sharing forum was followed by a police-media forum on 8 February where senior editors and journalists, officers from the Nigerian Police, senior officers from the Independent National Electoral Commission, and other key actors discussed modalities for police-media co-operation and the safety of journalists during the electioneering period. The forum examined working protocols, including the possibility of setting up support tools such as a helpline for journalists who may find themselves in difficult situations while covering of the elections.

Post-election police-media forum

A post-election police-media forum will also be held after the Nigeria elections with the aim of bringing together media actors and security agencies to discuss and evaluate the collaboration between the two groups during the elections and to foster greater collaboration between the two groups going forward.

To further strengthen and guide police-media relations and improve the safety of journalists in the country, participants at the forum would discuss and agree on the development of a Framework on Police-Media Relations.

These interventions in Nigeria add to similar ones successfully undertaken by the MFWA, IMS and other partners in Ghana (2016), Liberia (2017), Sierra Leone (2018) and Mali (2018) which contributed immensely to improved relations and collaboration between the police and media before, during and after elections.