• Saturday, June 22, 2024
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I hope that the general election will be non-violent, peaceful – Kebbel  

I hope that the general election will be non-violent, peaceful – Kebbel  
Gary Kebbel is a professor of Mass Communication and Journalism and former dean at the College of Mass Communication and Journalism at the University of Nebraska. At a recent workshop jointly organised by the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Pan-Atlantic University and US Consulate in Lagos for senior editors, Kebbel discussed the use of mobile and social media as additional techniques for reporters covering the forth-coming Nigeria’s presidential election. He spoke with ZEBULON AGOMUO, Deputy Editor, on the sideline of the programme. Excerpts:
It is believed that politicians are having a lot of influence on the media; I think in the United States political operators also have political and economic interests, owning and controlling the mass media. So, what is the difference between what is happening there and what is happening here in terms of press freedom?
 The point is that in each country, there are strong interests that could influence the work of the media; but our job is to try to make sure that they leave the media alone; they allow the media to operate independently and free. But you are right, we each have our own institutions that we have to watch carefully, because if we don’t they could bias or negatively influence the outcome.
In view of the problem of terrorism which we now have in Nigeria, which is really a serious problem for us, and the imperative of the social media in today’s journalism, how do you think we can reconcile that, given the fact that the social media is also vulnerable to being employed/misused toward fomenting problems to the advantage of these interests that always try to influence the media?
Social media in Nigeria as in other places has the capacity to spread violence and wrong information. What happens is that they recognise the power of the media, and what that tells you is that the press as an institution should recognise its power as well and should be able to use it properly in the interest of their audience.

You have been witnessing elections in Nigeria and you can see that this time around, it appears that the tempo of campaign is high.  What role do you think the social media has played in raising the awareness level of the citizenry concerning the forth-coming election?

Well, I think social media is a tool that can reach new audience, especially the young. That is to say that the young people are more active on the social media than the older generation. The key recognition is that because the young people are using the social media, the level of awareness could be expectedly high.
In what ways does the Nigerian electoral process differ from that of the US?
The main difference is that in the US we don’t have a national voter’s card, everything is state by state; we don’t have the issue of people not getting their registration or their voters cards on time.

How do you describe the growing use of the social media by political operators in Nigeria?

I think, political operators are more and more recognising that the social media is a way for them to control the message and speak directly to the people. And they can bypass the press; they now recognise that they can be active in selling their programmes directly to the people without having to go through the press.

What are your expectations from the forth-coming general elections in Nigeria?

I hope that the general election in Nigeria will be non-violent and peaceful.  The minimum expectation is that the people will be able to vote right.How would you rate the INEC, judging by the activities of similar body in the US?

Well, we don’t have exactly the same body in the United States, so I can’t really compare the two, but I know that the INEC has a huge, huge job to do, with proper funding; I think they will do it.What are your expectations from the Nigerian journalists in reporting the election?

My expectation from the Nigerian journalists is that they should report issues, and that they help the electoral process to be objective, transparent, so that the people can trust the outcome and have confidence in them. Issue-based reporting, not personality-based; making sure that the people have verified and accurate information, that’s the way to go.