Mr. Eric Chinje, CEO of AMI making his statement during the conference

AMI, OIF and IDEA Conclude Conference on Covering Elections in Africa

Cross-section of participants in the conference posed for a group photo

Africa Media Initiatives (AMI) in collaboration with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), have concluded a two-day conference on Covering Elections in Africa.

The conference which took place on Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th, July 2017, was held at the Desmond Tutu Convention Center, in Nairobi, Kenya. It saw about fifty (50) specially selected election experts, representatives of electoral bodies and high-level media practitioners from the 13 Anglophone and Francophone African countries that are slated to conduct elections over the next 18 months discussed the ‘Covering of Elections in Africa’.

During the opening session, Mr. Eric Chinje, CEO of AMI, said “the two-day deliberations will offer a unique forum for sharing experiences and expertise, and gaining valuable knowledge from professionals who have been closely involved in the running and coverage of elections.

” He added: “We do not have enough resources but we need the best of media practitioners, electoral officer that will come together and discuss Africa.” Mr. Chinje urged representatives to ensure that the development of Africa is enhanced through their various channels.

Welcoming delegates, Tidiane Dioh, Coordinator of the Media Programme at OIF, said he is convinced that “elections are much more than casting one’s vote”. According to him, “the voter must have access to a whole array of relevant information concerning the electoral process and such a role and responsibility remains the purview of a free, independent and professional media”. He added that Africa until now has not any legal text to cover elections, and that Africans always feel that election is a moment of simply exercising their rights, but forgetting that elections have very tough tensions.

During their panel discussion on Assessing the State of Elections in Francophone and Anglophone Africa, Adebayo Olukushi, Director of International IDEA, Africa and West Asia, said Africa has undergone an important wave of democratization which has in the process ushered a culture of holding elections. However, he said the process was not always a homogeneous process as evidenced by the specific regions or country.  He furthered that elections are not exclusive properties or sole monopoly of democracy, because according to him, “single parties also did conduct elections.” Therefore, he said, “what is very much important is the conduct of any free and fair election through a society with media pluralism in Africa.”

In addition, Samuel Fonkam Azu’u, Past Chief Electoral Commissioner, Cameroon, whilst talking on the topic ‘Running and Managing Elections – Giving Voice to Electoral Commissioners’ said, one of the challenges facing Elections Management Bodies (EMBs) in Africa is that in most countries, there is lack of trust between EMBs and the people. He urged for the enforcement of electoral laws that reflect the dynamics of Africa states. Mr. Fonkam added that most times EMSs face serious constrains, but that the media does not tend to collaborate with them in finding out final solutions to the numerous challenges EMBs face.

In his side, Ahmed Newton Barry, Electoral Commissioner, Burkina Faso said “liberal democracy without liberal press is very much unimaginable.” He called for a collaborative approach between the media and the electoral commissions during elections periods.

Meanwhile, other activities that took place during the conference were: A Presentation of Research commissioned by AMI on ‘Coverage of Election Related News in Kenya’ done by  Wangethi Mwangi; ‘Getting the Message Across During an Election: The Dynamics at Play’ done by Okey Onyejekwe, Special Advisor to the Minister (Policy and Strategy), Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Nigeria; Daisy Bathusi, Botswana Congress Party Women’s League President, Botswana and Nomsa Masuku, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Commission of South Africa.

Furthermore, at the end of the conference, the following recommendations were reached: Firstly, to establish a network of specialized reporters who cover elections in Africa. The second is to invite the specialized reporters in observing and covering elections in Africa. Thirdly, to encourage training models in media schools on elections coverage in Africa. Fourth is to organise forum on elections coverage in Africa every year. In addition, is to encourage strongly the presence of journalists in decision making bodies of EMBs. Lastly, is to create collaboration between the EMB’s and the media.

Meanwhile, the conference ended with sharing courtesies among representatives of various countries involved. Participating countries were Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Zimbabwe.

After the presentations, two sessions followed for which journalists make their statements on the status of democracy in their various countries, and their experience and encounters of elections.

Culled from : Awareness Times

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