This has been a challenging election for journalists and media houses. The Covid-19 pandemic, the violence unleashed by police and security agencies, intimidation and threats by political actors, regulatory overreach, unaccountable media owners, the commercial pressures on the industry, misinformation powered by social media, and inexperience in the newsroom have combined to threaten independent journalism and the right to freedom of expression.
As we head for the last lap; the following issues are worth paying attention to on Election Day:
- Opening of polling stations: Did voting open at the stipulated time?
- Voting materials: Were all voting materials delivered in time?
- Voter turn-out: Did people participate in the election? How does the turn-out compare to that
in previous elections?
- Security: Did the voting and counting of ballots take place in a peaceful atmosphere? Was the
army deployed? Were police deployed? Did the security forces behave appropriately?
- Vote counting: Did counting proceed transparently, without incident? Did all parties agree on
the counting methods? Did the numbers of votes correspond with registered voters?
- Release of results: Is the announcement of results at the district and national tally centres
transparent? Do officials reveal where the results are coming from?
- Reporting on results: If you’re reporting the results as they come in from your field reporters,
remember to provide context/perspective. Remind your audience that yours are not the official
results. Say candidate so and so is leading, and avoid using the word winning to avoid the risk
of misleading your audience.
- Local observers: Are the local observers credible? What are their preliminary verdicts? Was the election free and fair?
- Background: Was the playing field level? Were electoral reforms passed? How was the preparedness of the Electoral Commission? What was the message of the candidates/parties? What issues were the voters interested in? What were the candidate/party strategies? What stood out? Who was leading according to the opinion polls? Were the polls credible? How have the candidates/parties performed in previous elections? What was the role of money in elections?