Global Resources

Final report on media coverage of 2015 elections: A monitoring scorecard of print and online media

Publisher: International Press Centre
Publication Date: Aug 2015

As the purveyor of important information, the news media has an important and influential role in any democracy, for both good and bad. It is key therefore that the performance of the press in covering elections is monitored and assessed to ensure that the highest ethical and professional standards are upheld. This publication, produced by the International Press Centre (IPC) and the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) with multiple partner support, presents the results of a comprehensive study of print and online news media in Nigeria over the course of the 2015 general elections. It sheds light on the extent to which media coverage under-represented marginalised groups, both their voices, and the issues that affect them.

The methodology of the study outlines the different news media that were monitored between November 2014 and April 2015, including twelve national newspapers, ten regional newspapers, and three online publications. Also monitored were three social media accounts, namely the Twitter accounts of Enough-is-Enough Nigeria, Reclaim Naija, and the Independent National Electoral Committee. Each source was assessed across five criteria: use of sources, conflict sensitivity, language use, coverage of issues, and coverage of the election management body. These criteria were chosen to align the outcomes with existing guidelines set forth in the Electoral Act of 2010, as well as media codes of ethics and conduct. The main body of the report, the performance scorecard, then provides all of the data for each of the publications, before monthly trends are identified and analysed.

The overall results of the study show that, once again, female voices have been muffled in the political discourse up-to and beyond the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. Across all news media, coverage of the election featured a total of 15,296 male voices as sources, compared to just 750 female voices. This represents a mere 4.68% of the total sources used. However, it is not merely the fault of the media; while they need to do more to provide inclusive coverage, it is also true that there is a host of other barriers, including the greater financial wherewithal of the large number of male candidates, acts to shape news agendas, and disadvantage women.

In terms of how women’s issues were reported in the media, the figures continue the trend of inadequate representation. Of all the stories reported during the election, just 330, or 1.23%, concerned women’s issues. Person’s living with disabilities were also highly under-represented, with just 63 reports representing 0.24%. These numbers suggest that the news media in Nigeria needs to be reminded of the need for fair representation of all sections of society, especially those without the means to have their voices heard themselves. Another significant bias was the overwhelming amount of coverage concerning the two main political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This came at the expense of the remaining 24 parties, who had to share just 8.4% of all mentions.

Recommendations offered by the report include that:

  • Media owners, editors, reporters, and other stakeholders involved in covering elections should develop deliberate strategies to ensure that women are adequately represented in the media.

  • Stakeholders should embrace the philosophy of gender-responsive reporting by giving greater projection to female politicians, and women's issues generally.

  • Publications and editors should commit to involving women politicians and women-led organisations as sources for stories that affect the female gender and democratic governance.

  • Journalists should ensure that reports on the electoral processes in general, and democratic governance issues in particular, are more inclusive by improving on the use of experts, women, youths, ordinary citizens, the civil society, etc., as sources.