FUNDAMENTAL OF SPEECH COMMUNICATION
THE ROLE OF PRESS IN A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION IN NIGERIA
ADELEKE ESTHER KEHINDE
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 overall 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 setting 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, transparency 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.
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...
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