Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nigerian Elections 2007: What's hot and what's not in the media coverage

Note: this is first of a rush two-part article on the 2007 Nigerian state and presidential elections. I’ll clean up any spelling errors and add tags and stuff tomorrow.

This will be a big weekend for national elections in both Europe and Africa as the voters of France and Nigeria go to the polls to elect their next president. Two elections couldn’t be more different in terms of fairness and transparency and public order in carrying out the most important right of citizens living in a democratic country, the right to choose one’s political leaders.

The international media networks have been focusing a great deal on both elections. CNN International is rolling out massive coverage of the French elections with reporting by its top foreign correspondents and anchors and including coverage by some high-profile French blog authors. Whereas the CNN coverage of the Nigerian elections on their website and on-the-air shows clearly where the CNN network executives have placed their news reporting priorities this month (Hint: it ain’t in Nigeria, that’s for sure).

I’m surprised that CNNI’s Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange and Inside Africa program host Femi Oke have not been reporting daily from Nigeria about the elections since the hotly debated coverage of the Niger Delta militia story last February and I am surprised that CNN has chosen not to devote more resources and reporters to cover these critical elections in Africa’s most populous and arguably most important nation. One out of every five Africans hails from Nigeria and what happens there is important. Inside Africa is sure to cover the Nigerian elections this weekend as the program’s host Femi Oke is a British born-and-bred Nigerian-European.

BBC Online has been publishing a series of in-depth articles on the Nigerian elections including the debacle last Saturday following the state parliamentary/gubernatorial polls and the growing anxiety and tension over this Saturday’s presidential polls. The comparison of coverage from the BBC vs. that of CNN on the Nigerian 2007 elections is rather stark___ and for many CNNI viewers it should also be very embarrassing.

The new Reuters Africa news service which integrates blog feeds from Global Voices Online’s network of worldwide citizen journalists probably has the most extensive coverage of the Nigerian 2007 elections available anywhere, online or offline. You can read more about the Reuters/Global Voices professional and citizen journalist hookup for Africa at the following great blogs:

Africa Media – Africa: Giving Reuters the Business
Global Voices – World meet Africa! A new way of reporting the continent
My Heart’s in Accra – Reuters and Global Voices new Africa coverage
Rebecca’s Rconversation – Reuters Africa: breaking new ground
Media Shift – Reuters Looks to Africa and a Decentralized Future for Media
OpenDemocracy – Reporting Africa blog by blog

I cannot think of any one group of people from an African nation that have been more influential and active in the growth of the blogosphere over the past 3-4 years than the Nigerian blog authors and their readers worldwide. When I want to learn the latest news about what’s happening down in Nigeria I automatically check with high-profile bloggers Imnakoya of Grandiose Parlor, Chippla Vandu of Chippla’s Blog, and Sokari Erkine of Black Looks. There are many, many more good online authors who hail from Nigeria and/or write extensively about Nigeria but these three people are my first GoTo bloggers for information about the country. Tobias Eigen of Saidia.org wrote about Nigerian blog authors covering the elections in his Blueprint for a Nigerian Civil Society Election Blog post and one should not miss Nigerianbloggers.com and the The Nigerian Village Square for the latest news and opinions.

What may not be so well known to authors and readers throughout the blogosphere is the Nigerian Election Hotline initiative started by Akwe Amosu of the Open Society Institute in Washington, D.C. to cover the ongoing elections and post-election news in Nigeria. Akwe Amosu (bio) is a Senior Policy Analyst on Africa at the Open Society Institute (see *1) and has over 20 years experience in journalism, broadcasting and publishing of Africa news and affairs. Akwe joined allAfrica.com. a leading online news and news aggregator network, as its founding executive editor in 2000 and has many more outstanding accomplishments in her professional career.

Akwe wrote in an email distributed to select Africa/African blog authors on April 17th:

Colleagues,
http://nigeriaelectionhotline.com/

Please check out Nigeria Election Hotline's stories and link to them if/when you feel so moved... we put this project together to help ensure a platform for stories that might not otherwise make it into the mainstream. The content on NEH is also published by allAfrica.com. There is an RSS link to make access easy.

Akwe

The Nigerian Election Hotline news website mission statement reads as follows:

Nigeria Election Hotline is a news website that aims to publish stories on the 2007 vote that might not otherwise reach the reading public. Despite a vibrant tradition of independent journalism, many Nigerian journalists are concerned at the level of interference in the media by political interests who are seeking to control the flow of information in the press. Nigeria Election Hotline is an effort to make sure that Nigerian voters have access to the information they need to make an informed choice at the polls. Nigeria Election Hotline is moderated by the newsletter Africa Confidential and funded by the Open Society Institute. It is written by a team of correspondents from throughout the Federation. Contributions are welcomed. [End]

So my tip to Africa’s and the rest of the world’s best citizen journalists, blog authors, aspiring online journalists and media producers is, “Don’t be stupid, help these people out and quick. How often do we get a chance at this level of exposure and support to speak our minds? Zak-zak!”

Do visit the OSI Washington D.C. website to learn more about the organization and to read Akwe’s very impressive bio as well, and don’t forget to stop by the brand new Nigerian Election Hotline blog at Blogspot.com

*1- The Open Society Institute (OSI) is a private operating and grant-making foundation setup to “to shape public policy to promote democratic governance, human rights, and economic, legal, and social reform. On a local level, OSI implements a range of initiatives to support the rule of law, education, public health, and independent media. At the same time, OSI works to build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as combating corruption and rights abuses.” OSI is a member of the Soros Foundation network created by the famous entrepreneur, political activist and social philanthropist George Soros. You can read more at the website http://www.soros.org/.

Part 2 coming very soon:
The Battle for Nigeria – views from America’s news media gatekeepers


Related articles and posts:

Jewels in the Jungle
Africa Open for Business: Nation-branding in sub-Saharan Africa. Perception vs. Reality
CNN International Correspondents feature Nigerian author and columnist Uche Nowrah

AfricaMedia
CNN on the Niger Delta: Not much to report

CNN – Behind the Scenes
Koinange: Big guns, big oil collide in Nigeria – 02/10/07
CNN denies Nigerian allegations of staging report – 02/13/07



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9 comments:

imnakoya said...

Thanks for the kind words and support BRE.

It is important that the rest of the world tune in to Nigeria at this moment. The nation is being systematically hijacked and manipulated by means and methods that will make anyone with conscience puke.

Anonymous said...

Interesting points there...although (and this isn't confirmed) I heard recently that part of Jeff Koinages contract with CNN is that he is the only Africa continent (bar someone in S. Africa). Apparently he gets more kudos and more money that way.

If it's true, it's a disgrace for the coverage of the continent, but like I said, unconfirmed.

sokari said...

Thanks for the links here but you missed out one very important online media for africa and that is pambazuka news. The only one of all the media you mention (other than bloggers) that is produced by Africans, written by Africans and read by Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora with a readership of some 20,-000 my email subscriptions and 500,000 online. Pambazuka is a Pan African newsletter for social justice that challenges the mainstream reporting on Africa - you only have to look at the broad range of writers from academics, to journalists, to writers, activists, social movements to see that this is a news media with a difference. It is unfortuante that this THE ONLY African media is left out.

Black River Eagle said...

Sokari, you are right in that I forgot to include Pambazuka News, the award-winning online news and op-ed website that stands head-and-shoulders above the competition on reporting about Africa. Pambazuka News has been listed in my blogroll for ages so that may be why I didn't think about them yesterday.

I said that this was a RUSH transcript, didn't I? I was bound to forget someone or mess something up. I'll correct this error right away.

Imnakoya, no sweat on the Hat Tip to you and other Nigerian blog authors, you've all earned the attention and respect through your hard work for these past few years.

Nigeria is an important nation in Africa and in the world community and I for one will be watching the media coverage on these elections and the post-election fallout very carefully. I only hope and pray that the people of Nigeria keep their heads and challenge these election results in a peaceful and legal manner. Any group of Nigerians that resort to violence at this critical time in your nation's history will be doing a terrible dis-service to the people of Nigeria and may cause irrepairable damage to the image of entire nation.

To my Anonymous reader:
I have also read something yesterday that attempts to place CNN's Jeff Koinange and Femi Oke into a suspicious light re: their coverage of Africa and of Nigeria in particular. Responsible journalists (CJ's and Pros) should wait to verify their information before publishing to the Net or anywhere else. Hence we should leave rumours and unsubstantiated information where it belongs, in the mouths and minds of the rumour mongers and the idiots that listen to them and blindly follow their incitement into disaster.

Both Jeff Koinange and Femi Oke are good journalists and very professional in my opinion and I appreciate their efforts to provide a broad range of news and features about Africa to the world....BUT, they must also keep on their toes because the world of news gathering and reporting, broadcast journalism and news publishing is changing very fast___ at the speed of light to be exact.

Tobias Eigen said...

Hello -

Thanks for this terrific article highlighting (and bringing together) all the blogging and online attention getting that is going on around the Nigerian election. I hadn't realized Akwe's involvement in this and will be in touch with her.

I wanted to share two things:

1) The "Nigerian Civil Society Election Blog" I was describing was indeed set up at http://www.greenlightnigeria.org - and is accepting audio and text contributions. They are also feeding in audio, video and text from their partners on the ground and have already been sharing some powerful stories. It's worth a read and please help spread the word about the site and that they are looking for voices to show the human side of the election.

2) An election SMS system has been set up and I urge everyone to tell all their friends in Nigeria to note the number and to spread the word about it as much as possible. The number is 0808-4032739. More details about this and what happens to texts to that number at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6570919.stm
.

I have been blogging actively about all this at saidia.org and welcome comments and feedback on how technology is used to prevent violence and fraud in the election.

Warmest wishes to all, and very mcuh hoping for a peaceful election tomorrow..

Tobias

Black River Eagle said...

Thanks Tobias, thanks loads for the additional information you have provided here. I'll update this post to reflect the info that you and Sokari have provided. CNN Inside Africa is coming on TV (CNNI) in just 10 minutes and the program will be focusing on the Nigerian elections, so I gotta go now. Thanks again for the great info.

Where's Jeff? Where's CNN's senior Africa correspondent and South Africa bureau chief Jeff Koinange? Reporting LIVE from deep within the Niger Delta!? You're kidding?

Jonathan Marks said...

I note Al Jazeera English network with extensive reporting on the Nigerian elections too, from both North and South.

Melissa said...

Thanks for this interesting round-up (and the link!). The use of blogs and other technologies in talking about the election seems to be an important element in this story. Has there been much Western media coverage of that angle? I've only seen it on blogs and the BBC link in your comments.

Black River Eagle said...

Melissa, I have provided links and brief commentary about your posts at Africa Media because you are one of only a few bloggers that consistently track and write about how the world's press and media cover Africa. Therefore I and my readers must say thanks to you and not the other way around.

Re: your question about Western media writing about the use of blogs and mobile technology in the 2007 Nigerian elections, I haven't seen anything yet in the MSM (East or West) about that angle. You may find something about that subject on top tech news websites and technology news blogs and at websites focusing on economic development and governance news from developing countries.

It would be interesting to see who breaks this story first and if they are a "Western or Eastern" news media source... whatever that is supposed to mean. I think that the East vs. West news media argument has been overplayed by many people who write or talk about it. I'm more interested in people around the world having good "media literacy" so that they won't be so easily manipulated by journalists, columnists, and TV/Radio commentators who stray away from the facts and the principles of good journalism and reporting.