Elections and media are both expressions of fundamental human rights: the right to freedom of expression, and the right to political participation. A successful EMB relies on free media to provide elections news to the public, assist with voter education, and provide direct access for contestants. The full participation of the media helps to ensure the integrity and credibility of an election. Meanwhile, the media relies on the EMB to help ensure a good regulatory environment for covering elections, and provide information on the electoral process. An EMB and the media need to work hand-in-hand on voter education to help voters participate fully in the elections.
Despite many synergies, relationships between EMBs and media are often tense, due to their different roles and priorities. EMB staff members need to focus on keeping to a tight schedule; while journalists may want them to be available for comment all the time. EMB staff members must troubleshoot the many problems which inevitably arise when organizing an election; the media wants to expose mistakes and possible transgressions. EMB staffers are usually specialists with very technical knowledge; journalists are often generalists who need to write for a mass audience, avoiding jargon.
This module starts out by exploring the meaning of media and media freedoms, and how these must be respected for an election to be democratic. The module then looks at possibilities and issues in regulation of the media. An EMB’s roles in relation to the media, and media roles at different points in the electoral cycle are then explored. A number of real issues faced by EMBs when media cover elections are covered, as well as Codes of Conduct to help regulate the role of media. The module then looks at practical ways of negotiating and developing EMB-media relationships, and some further ways an EMB can manage media during elections.
The final three sections of the module are the largest, and most hands-on. They deal with: developing communications plans for EMBs; a broad range of practical techniques for EMB media relations such as journalist training, press conferences and press releases; and analyzing ways of ensuring inclusion of disadvantaged groups – such as disabled people and women – through an EMB’s media work.