By John Okeke
Mr Malcom Joseph, Executive Director, Center for Media Studies and Peace building, Liberia has called on Journalists in ECOWAS Countries to set the agenda for credible elections in their countries.
Joseph made this known while delivering a paper on “The role of the media in elections in the region” during the ongoing High-level seminar of the ECOWAS Parliament in Winneba, Ghana.
He said that said that the media plays a critical role to the continuation of democracy in the ECOWAS sub-region and should live by their mandate as agenda setters.
“The media should be the agenda setter in the electioneering process of the region.
“The media is extremely pivotal to the continuation of democracy in West Africa. That is a fact that cannot be contradicted,” Joseph said.
Joseph said that the media over the years have successfully carried out its functions as watchdog, overseeing and monitoring electoral processes pre-election, during elections and post-election.
He said that during elections, the media is very much present and visible at polling units, covering activities, and monitoring of the ballot until the final point.
Joseph however noted that media in West African countries still face very real internal and external challenges in performing its role of ensuring that democracy is preserved in the country.
He listed some of the challenges to include; interference from authorities of power, inadequate funding to be independent, being aligned to a particular political interest amongst others.
He explained that media house in opposition most times bear the brunt, as they are sometimes denied registration or have their licenses revoked on flimsy grounds.
“Though the media in the sub-region has done a lot to highlight the challenges that democracy faces, the strong arm of governments in various countries have made the work quite difficult.
“In Nigeria, several journalists have been harassed and imprisoned by the government in recent years.
“In the Republic of Guinea, the situation was not better with the media outlets either closed or threatened with closure in the lead up to the controversial elections of 2020.
“In Togo, media houses were closed, and the Supreme Court upheld their closure, even though there were claims that the decision was spurious and politically motivated,”.
Joseph however urged Journalists not to relent, stating that it is their responsibility to shine a torch on indiscretions and corruptions that occur in the electoral process.