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Nigerian Election Coverage Project Launched
IWPR trainer Ivor Gaber with trainee Idris Olalekan who works for the Abuja-based Next national newspaper. (Photo: IWPR)
IWPR and its Nigerian partners, the International Press Centre, launched The Nigerian Election News Report, NENR, service on March 25, in the run-up to Nigeria's April general elections.
The service is designed to give Nigerian journalists a politically neutral platform for their work and to be a voice of objectivity in the election period.
"Many Nigerian journalists are paid very poorly," Arogundade said. "[IWPR’s] Nigerian Election News Report offers alternative income to the Nigerian journalist by rewarding good political journalism and, as a result provides a source of reliable news for the public at this politically sensitive time."
In a country where media - particularly broadcast media - are dominated by state-controlled outlets, the Nigerian Guild of Editors has acknowledged the importance of the reporting service's impartiality.
Speaking at the launch of NENR in Lagos, the president of the guild, Gbenga Adefaye told journalists, "This service is not just to show your skills, it gives the platform to present your report objectively."
NENR uses ground-breaking interactive voice response technology to enable subscribing journalists across Nigeria to receive voice reports about election developments via their mobile phones.
In the weeks leading up the elections, which conclude on April 16, the service will be making over 100,000 minutes of phone calls - ensuring that Nigerian journalists can access free and fair news wherever they are in the country.
Having heard the stories on their phones, journalists will be able to download text and audio from the project website and use it in their own reports and broadcasts. Subscription is free and over 1,000 journalists have already signed-up.
As well as listening to the news, journalists can also contribute to it.
Lanre Arogundade, Director of the International Press Centre, IWPR's Nigerian partner organisation, used the occasion of the launch of NENR to invite journalists to send in reports.
The main contributors to NENR are expected to be a network of 150 journalists who participated in IWPR's Fair Media, Fair Elections workshops which were held in five major Nigerian cities: Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Kaduna and Enugu. However, any Nigerian journalist is welcome to contribute, and those whose stories are chosen will be paid a fee.
"Many Nigerian journalists are paid very poorly," Arogundade said. "The Nigerian Election News Report offers alternative income to the Nigerian journalist by rewarding good political journalism and, as a result provides a source of reliable news for the public at this politically sensitive time."
The editor of NENR, Professor Ivor Gaber of City University London, is looking for stories that go beyond the election race and cover the big issues affecting Nigerian people's every-day lives.
"We want to challenge journalists to send us stories that resonate with the public - less party political squabbling and more insight into what the candidates can offer Nigerians," he said.
Stories so far include an interview with the Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, on political violence; an item on labour unions' calls for candidates to support a minimum wage in Nigeria; and a piece on voter education.
As part of the project, IWPR and its Nigerian partners have published an election reporting manual for journalists. It covers everything from tips on how to stay safe while reporting the elections, to up-to-date legal information on the rights and responsibilities of the Nigerian media.
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