A one-day media workshop on election reporting was conducted at Hotel Vivor in Kohima on Tuesday. The workshop was organised by the Chief Electoral Office of Nagaland and the Information & Public Relations Department.
Karma Paljor, editor-in-chief of East Mojo and co-founder of Atvi Infotainment, who was a resource person at the workshop and someone who has wide experience in election reporting in different states, said that elections in many states are fought in different ways but the crux remains the same, but here in Nagaland, he said that it is really different due to the widespread of money power used during elections.
Karma Paljor stressed on the need for journalists to focus on issues facing the people at the ground level and not just focus on political candidates or parties. He cautioned against becoming mouthpieces and transcribers for political candidates. He called on the media to strive for impartiality and play the role of arbitrator and overseers of the election, cover all issues objectively without favouring any party, and added that focus should not be restricted to high profile politicians. He pointed out the need for coverage of smaller political parties as well.
Karma Paljor then reminded the media to not be afraid of repeating the basics, specially on difficult issues, to demystify the news, simplify it and make it less confusing. He mentioned the need for journalists to be able to analyse campaign strategies, manifestoes of political candidates and parties, and also cautioned against pack journalism, where reporters often focus on similar issues and events. Some other topics he discussed were on how to harness social media as a source of news, online journalism, media ethics on covering elections, etc.
Chief Electoral Officer of Nagaland, V Shashank Shekhar, addressing the media said that the media plays a constructive role in the election process, and extended his appreciation to the media for highlighting various aspects of the election to the public. To conduct free and fair elections, he said, the Excise department, police and enforcement agencies are actively monitoring what is going on, and that the media is a medium through which such aspects can be highlighted to a larger audience.
Senior journalist, Sunzu Bachaspatimayum in his speech on ‘Challenge and opportunities in election coverage’ highlighted that media has two aspects to play in a democracy: to inform the public and to act as a watchdog over the government as it is incumbent on the press to impart information and idea on matters of public interest as they also have a right to receive them or the press would not be able to play as vital role of being the public watchdog over the government. He also pointed out that freedom of the press gives the public one of the best means of discovering and forming an opinion of the ideas and attitudes of political leaders and also gives the opportunity to reflect and comment on the concerns of public option.
He then said that media enables everyone to participate in free political debates which is the very core of the concept of a democratic society as the exercise of freedom of expression can only be exercised on an individual level with the expression of facts and opinions and receiving of information through the media. He also said that the government may regulate the technical aspects of broadcasting and the media are subject to the law of the land in matters such as defamation or incitement but as a general rule government may not restrict the contents of the media.
On obligation of pluralism, Sunzu Bachaspatimayum stated that the media must play a key role as a means of scrutinizing government action, but also to ensure that the electorate has all the necessary information at its disposal to make an informed and democratic choice.