THE ROLE OF THE PRESS IN THE FREE AND FAIR ELECTION
1.0 Background to the Study
Election is a festival of democracy. It fosters an inclusive state; democracy rooted in popular sovereignty and sustainable peace and tests the competitive strength of political parties and leaders through programme and ideologies. In this context, it is important for the press to keep the hope of citizens’ by serving key roles in democratic initiatives, democratic consolidation, democratic expansion and democratic system.
Since the press is the prime channel of transmitting electoral message, politics will be played out increasingly in communication space. Press can contribute to ease the nation’s transition process by creating election friendly environment, democratizing the public sphere and legitimizing political initiatives. These factors are essential to strengthen the integrative capacity of the political system and its external adaptability and open the citizens’ mind to universal principles of democracy human rights and rule of law. But, the public function of the press is largely contingent on its own framework of ownership, finance, control and regulation.
Politicians talk more to the press than among themselves. It is the press that shapes their over all cognitive understanding about politics. A strong identification of citizens with political parties steered by the press provides greater motivation to vote and engage in politics. But, party is only a part of society, not the whole.
The articulation of partisan contents marks the partial reporting of political truth. It mirrors only the ideological representation of society and contributes less to democratic well-formation. Citizenship begins with the membership of the state; therefore, Civic responsibility of the press requires a contribution to public opinion formation. In this process the press has to provide civic awareness to citizens, equip them with participatory Information and resources, stimulate active public engagement and foster meaningful dialogue and ownership of public in the agenda settmg of post-election process.
Familiarization of citizens with various ideas and issues such as knowledge about the transition management, objectives of the election, election system and processes, registration of voters, nomination of candidates, ransparency of election process, neutrality of electoral and security officials, monitoring of code of conduct, roles of various agencies in improving the election environment, monitoring of human rights, redesigning the state, inclusive dispensation, durable peace etc is essential to provide the citizens a greater measure of free will and self-confidence and enable them to use their own political choice.
The press has to work together with civil society and citizens to prevent electoral malpractices, such as vote buying and selling, character assassination of candidates, belittling national sensitiveness, social harmony and decent voting behavior, abuses of the state and market power, etc and enthuse in citizens a sense of reason, conscience and civic responsibility. The ability of the press in doing so places it in a esteemed position to make political with sufficient bearing for the nation and people.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The press is to serve the governed, not the governors. The government power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain free to censure the government. The press is protected so that it could bare the secrets, of government and inform the people, only a free and restrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people
The work will therefore show to large extent the relevance and the role of press to live up to its responsibility to educate and enlighten mçrnbers of the public about democratic principles and avoid adopting a sensational or divisive approach in coverage of political issues.
1.3 Research Questions
The study is intended to answer the following questions; what extent are the roles of the press in a free and fair election?
To what extent has the press been socially responsible?
To what extent can government and people assist the press playing its role? To ensuring free and fair election?
What are the problems and the future challenges?
1.4. Purpose or Objective of the Study
This study has sought to examine how the press has fared and legally performed its role for a free and fair election. The impetus for the study is the reoccurring debate about the role of the press in a free and fair election. The study is therefore concerned with assessing the press performance in an election, the political election and the general contribution of the Nigeria press to a stable policy.
We are going to adopt qualitative method in undertaking the study. We are going to rely on secondary data. We will consult relevant literature in books, journals, internet, newspaper and magazines.
We will also seek people’s view on the subject and people’s assessment of the press and the government through structured interview.
1.6 Relevance of the Study
The role of the press has always been a controversial issue depending on whether that society is authoritarian or democratic or communist or libertarians, opinions differ and vary widely as to the specific role of the journalists in the society.
The press should be free from state control and ownership as against or a opposed to the accepted credo of the Eastern world. Many press and hardened critic are of the view that journalism could only be considered good and proper, if it keeps the government or administration on its toes with spate of criticism.
Nevertheless, some journalists writing in Eastern journals such as Pravda believe that the press is really free and democratic only when it is edited by the people themselves and represented by their various mass organizations. The point worth noting is that many developing countries can not easi1ftt well into the four theories of the press, which are authoritarian, libertarian, social responsibility and communist theories.
As the press is an essential organs of the democratic set-up; an important vehicle of communication and instrument in the creation of public opinion, the journalists should regard their profession as a trust to serve public interest. In pursuance of this objective, the council demands that the press should provide a truthful, comprehensive and reliable account of events in a context which gives meaning, project a representative picture of the constituent groups of society, regarding itself as a forum for comments and criticisms and discharge its social responsibilities by clarifying good and values of societies.
The project has been able to touch various aspects concerning the topic “The role of press in a free and fair election” but there were some factors that led to setback and constraints in getting facts arid material for the project. The first limitations of this study are financial constraint, time constraint and lack of adequate materials for the study. During the course of sourcing for materials the researcher faced a lot of financial difficulties and also lack of relevant textbooks for review.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
ROLE: Role according to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (6thedition) is the degree to which somebody or something involved in a situation or an activity and the effect that they have on it.
MASS MEDIA: Defleur and Dennis (1981) defined mass media as the devices for moving messages across distance or time to accomplish mass communication.
3. CANDIDATE: A nominee or aspirants for any position or honour. 5. ELECTION: Is a process of selecting one person or more for an office, public or private, from a wider field of candidates.