Nigerian police preparing for good relations with journalists during elections

Both journalists and police officers express high degree of satisfaction with three day training seminar on improving media-police relations prior to elections in Nigeria.

“Most problems arise when Security Agencies are trying to conceal information while the media is doing all it can to explore same. I have learnt to minimize anything that could heighten the friction between the police and the media,” says Muhammad Abbah Sadiq, a spokesperson of and police officer with Sokoto State Command in Nigeria.

The participants were divided into groups discussing different topics. Here are the topics for group 2. Photo: Michelle Betz

Earlier this month, Sadiq, along with 86 other representatives from police and media, took part in workshops and seminars during a three-day training held by IMS and Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) prior to the country’s upcoming presidential elections which have been postpond until 23 February. The aim of the training was to improve relations between journalists and police forces in order to secure a peaceful election.

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

“The training has exposed me to the need for greater synergy between the police and media not just for electoral purposes, but to enhance the general safety and positive sensitization of the populace. I was enlightened to be more transparent and professional in dealing with the media in particular and in my policing career as a whole,” Muhammad Abbah Sadiq says.

He adds, that the lessons he has learned have been documented and disseminated to all area commands and divisions in his state.

Knowledge of staying safe much needed

During the three days, the 35 participating journalists went through particular workshops on journalism safety and reporting reliably, sensibly and professionally to support a peaceful election process. Leaning on experience from similar trainings in Ghana and Sierra Leone, media consultant Michelle Betz who oversaw the training seminar, says:

“It was clear from the interactions with the journalists, who came from different parts of Nigeria, that understanding of how to stay safe while covering elections was relatively new for them but also very much needed in many of their contexts.”

Michelle Betz. Photo: MFWA

This observation is echoed by the anonymous evaluations done after the training. One participant writes:

“I am more motivated to learn to understand electoral process, as this is my first time to cover them. I have acquired more skills and actions to face the challenges of reporting and also how to work closely with security agents.“

The training’s overall focus on safety in journalism is also something, that many participants highlighted. Kemi Yesufu, editor in chief of Frontline News Online, writes in an e-mail afterwards:

“The training was useful for me on a personal level. I especially gained new insight on how to further ensure my digital safety and how to avoid exposing myself to danger when I want to carry out investigations on sensitive stories.”

IMS and Media Foundation West Africa have carried out a series of media – police dialogue trainings around the African continent in the run-up to elections to promote better relations between media and police. Similar ones were 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 in these respective countries.