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‘Corruption at the heart of poor election reporting’

Aug 9, 2011, 12:55 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Veteran Cameroonian journalist and Chief Executive Officer of the Star Media in Cameroon has said that corruption is at the heart of poor election reporting in West Africa.

Chief Foanyi Nkemayang Paul, who was presenting a paper at the just-concluded Commonwealth-Gambia government organized media forum held at the Sheraton Hotel, said that a good number of journalists have fallen prey to this vice.

According to him, elections bring politicians closer to media practitioners and, as a result, the image of the profession is profoundly tarnished with some surmountable problems recorded.

He told journalists at the forum that in the noble profession of journalism, ethics is the golden rule, the success story, the kick-starter, and the be-all and the be-end of practice, when the canons of responsible journalism are put in motion.

“It is for this reason that professional ethics should be viewed and reviewed properly, more particularly as it stands as the formidable passage-way from common practice of journalists to their being regarded as the watchdogs of the society,” Paul added.

He also stated that the success or failure of a reporter in election reporting is largely dependent on some key indicators, which he said included the state of mind of the journalist; lack of access to source of information; lack of effective communication; poor wages of journalists; editorial line of the media house; cosmetic training in the media profession; favoritism, tribalism nepotism; corruption; intimidation, threat and victimization.

“So it is a foregone conclusion that journalists cannot be relied upon with regard to election reporting because some will shamelessly tell you that they can’t operate in an empty stomach,” he said, adding that some journalists abuse ethics of their profession and operate according to the whims and caprices of their pay masters.

However, he went on, there are equally some incorruptible and reliable level-headed media practitioners in West Africa, who have stood the litmus test of professional excellence, and who have remarkably proven their prowess at election reporting by doing their job without blemish, telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

In his view, these are gentlemen who know that when people cast their vote for an individual, they do so with the belief that they are doing it for one in whom they want to entrust their lives, their future and that of their unborn children. “Such practitioners, though few, are committed to excellence,” he stated.

Paul further stated that one salient problem of election reporting is the terrain over which journalist’s float to cover voting, as most countries are so underdeveloped that the few roads only link big cities and administrative headquarters.

He called on African governments to encourage freedom of expression; open up access to information sources; review unfavorable media laws; encourage training and refresher courses; avoid intimidation, harassment and torture.