I’m James Entwistle, Ambassador of the United States of America to your marvelous country, Nigeria. I am delighted to greet you—journalists from all states of the North and the Federal Capital Territory gathered in Kaduna this week to refine and learn new techniques in election reporting. I appreciate that several of you came from the northeast to participate in this workshop, despite the security challenges.
Just 33 days from today, the 2015 general elections will begin. These elections present a golden opportunity for Nigeria to demonstrate its lasting commitment to democratic values and institutions. The United States strongly supports a free, transparent, credible, inclusive, and nonviolent electoral process. We continue to call upon all Nigerians to refrain from advocating, fomenting, or condoning violence before, during, or after the elections. We urge political parties and the government to ensure that all registered voters are able to participate freely in a peaceful and transparent process. In order to create an environment where that can happen, Nigeria’s political leadership—and all those who aspire to lead—must refrain from engaging in inflammatory rhetoric or supporting acts of intimidation.
But media play a vital role in creating that environment as well.
The title of this workshop says it all: “Community Reporting for Building of Democratic Values in the Run-up to the 2015 General Elections.”
In any country, covering an election is a great professional challenge for reporters. Journalists are expected to become experts who report on election rules—from how those rules govern the preparation of voter rolls to the tallying of final vote counts. Journalists in democracies have the vital task of reporting on the issues that voters want politicians to address—and helping to hold elected officials accountable for their campaign promises. Your readers, viewers, listeners, and social-media followers are counting on you to portray accurately and fairly the positions of the candidates and parties and to explain clearly the details of policy issues so that as voters, they can go to the ballot box with accurate information to inform their choices.
Good journalism, therefore, is fundamental to an election process that protects the rights of all Nigerians to use the ballot box to reflect the views and concerns of their communities—a process that helps produce a stable, democratic government, regardless of which candidate wins. Professional media are among the most powerful tools available to support a free, credible, inclusive, and peaceful electoral process in which democratic principles are adhered to by all parties, candidates, and institutions. Your work carries a tremendous amount of responsibility, and the shape and outcome of the electoral process depend in very great measure on the good work you do.
Nigeria’s friends and allies around the world also are deeply invested in helping to ensure that the 2015 elections are free, fair, peaceful, and credible. Throughout the electoral process, international audiences also will rely on you for timely, accurate, and insightful reporting that will reflect whether those goals are being met.
I want to personally thank the Nigeria Union of Journalists, led by President Mohammed Garba and Secretary Shuaibu Usman Leman, as well as workshop facilitator Ishaka Aliyu for partnering with the U.S. Embassy to organize this event. I want to thank highly experienced American journalism and mass communication professor Gary Kebbel, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for working with us to provide you with first-class journalism and social media skills.
In closing, let me reiterate that the United States stands with Nigeria as you continue on the democratic path. We do so as your friend and partner. You have many friends and partners who want Nigeria to succeed, and the United States stands at the front of that line. I look forward to reading, listening to, and watching your reports in the weeks to come.