By John Baptist Wasswa
The journalists must keep a cool head and avoid unnecessary excitement and a show of partisanship. It is a lot safer to report what you have witnessed or what your colleague has witnessed. The journalists should not depend on unconfirmed reports by excited supporters. That should be taken as a tip subject to verification.
Key things to note
- Decide at your media house which results you are going to report. Will you announce results from polling centres or from a tally centre? Agree with the editors on what you will do.
- The media house should tell its audience (especially broadcast stations) how you will bring them the results and which results, you will announce.
- Remember to always keep reminding your audience that the results are preliminary and partial. Only the Electoral Commission has the authority to announce results.
- Tell your audience the number of voters in the area you are reporting about. Polling officials will by that time know the percentage that has voted. With this election, the information is available on every polling centre, sub-county and county, and district. You can download the voter count per polling station and district from the Uganda Journalists Resource Centre.
- Help the audience with some of this information.
- Your media house should have an election desk where all reporters send stories. It is good practice if on election night the media house can host local experts who can throw some light on the voting exercise. The guests should come from different political parties including independents.
- When you announce the results that have been released, each candidate’s votes should be read and the percentage share of the total vote also announced. The declaration form will have this information and this should help you. Compare the numbers on the declaration forms with the EC’s voter count.
- Keep contacts of party officials and of candidates, especially parliamentary candidates for possible comments after the vote.
- Quickly identify salient features, patterns, and trends in the voting as results come in. For instance, a presidential candidate of Party A may win at that polling centre or tally centre but a candidate from Party B wins the parliamentary seat. Then a candidate from Party D takes the district woman MP seat. This is where your election desk editor needs expert opinion either in the studio or via social media platforms.
There are practices that should be avoided:
- Follow the official results as released by the Electoral Commission and relay them as such. Mention who is leading but avoid calling a constituency for a candidate.
- Avoid words like so and so ‘has swept all votes here.’ It can be misleading to listeners.
- Avoid showing your bias and the bias of the station with partisan declarations such as “Our man oyee!! Our man is winning” etc.
- Elections are a very charged exercise. Such emotion can cost you an audience and business.
- If you all have your in-house guidelines, compare notes with your colleagues scattered in the field on how the voting and counting of votes are going. This helps the listener get a wider view.
Finally, if you are to vote, do so as early as possible and get on to work.
After the announcement of the results, you are set for another big job
- Stories and soundbites of winners. Stories of joy, the supporters, family, campaign managers. Give the audience a quick profile of the winner, especially if they are first-time winners. Get an expert observer to explain why that candidate won and the significance of the win. Remind the audience of that winner’s campaign platform and key aspects of his manifesto. Do not miss a soundbite.
- Stories of the losers; the soundbites, plans for what next? Are they going to challenge the results? Get someone from the loser’s team or a local expert observer to explain the loss.
- The cost: wherever possible, ask the candidates to estimate how much the campaign cost them.
So prepare to visit the Electoral Commission website and have all the necessary information on the area you will report about.