Jeanne Clerk, spokeswoman for the United States Embassy in Nigeria, says giving voice to all the governed, including the under-represented by the media, assists in reducing voter apathy during elections.
Ms Clerk made the remark during a South-South town hall meeting, ‘Setting Agenda for Sustainable Democratic Culture’, organised by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) on Tuesday in Port Harcourt.
She said editors’ actions and decisions levelled the playing field as they determined whose voice was heard and what news topic received in-depth coverage.
The spokesperson noted that citizens and potential voters whose voices were not always amplified or heard were also interviewed during elections but were often neglected.
“You may not always realise it, but when you give voice to the governed and the under-represented, you help reduce voter apathy. We encourage you to take positive steps in favor of transparency,” explained Ms Clerk. “If your media house is owned by a politician or private business, what is the harm of clearly stating for all media consumers that the outlet is funded in whole or in part by said interest?”
By taking such action, she noted, the media would empower readers to assess potential bias in their own terms.
According to Ms Clerk, the only way to restore public confidence in democracy is through free and fair elections and reminded journalists of their crucial role in 2023 elections in the country.
She explained that there was a significant positive multiplier effect when journalists did the right thing or took a well-documented, pioneering approach.
“When free and independent media publish previously unknown facts, write principled editorials or take a stand to defend and protect other courageous journalists, the public takes note and trust is built and rebuilt,” added Ms Clerk. “On the other hand, we know that not everyone is principled and well-meaning in your field or any other field.”
She further pointed out that “trust cannot be nurtured when media houses play favorites and charge varying rates, for example, to politicians and candidates for the same level of broadcast time or publicity.”