EISA Niger: Support to Media Regulator

Main elements of support to the Superior Council of Communication (CSC; Conseil Supérior de la Communication) include:

  • Material equipment and technology of CSC for effective media monitoring, including social media monitoring.
  • Support to the regulation of the access of political parties and candidates to media.
  • Capacity building for the media on political pluralism and election coverage.
  • Support to CSC for an awareness campaign against electoral violence.
  • Post-elections review.
Media monitoring equipment enhanced

One of the key elements of EISA's support to the Conseil Superieur de la Communication (CSC, the media regulatory authority in Niger) is the reinforcement of its media monitoring capacity by providing them with equipment, technology and developing an operational methodology. EISA's communication and media expert and the EISA project's two consultants ie for media monitoring methodology and for equipment installation, assessed the institutional needs and the market for equipment, and formulated the technological specifications needed for an effective and modern electoral media monitoring process.

The new media monitoring equipment composed of latest generation recording, storage, and data treatment systems, including wireless (particularly useful for CSC's regional monitoring units). The equipment enabled the media regulator to monitor up to 80 radio and TV channels (with the possibility of 140), instead of 40 channels monitored before. The CSC was able to cover all media in Niamey and the rest of the country and effectively implemented the regulations.

This close monitoring has contributed to preventing the broadcast of violent speech, as the monitoring covered regional media that were previously out of control, particularly in remote areas where radios are used to broadcast political and religious sermons.

Alongside advising and procuring new equipment, an extensive database as well as training materials were developed to equip the CSC with best practices in monitoring and regulation.

Regulation of access to media by candidates and political parties

As the access of political stakeholders to media is key for an inclusive and credible electoral process, EISA supported the CSC's interaction with political stakeholders by proactively and transparently communicating the rules and provisions that regulated the media coverage of the election campaigns. These rules govern free and paid airtime coverage, broadcasting of candidate's messages etc. The support consisted of:

  • the compilation of the texts regulating access to public and private media in a handbook entitled Guide Pratique pour l'accès des candidats et partis politiques aux médias publics et privés en période électorale; it lays out general guidelines for how equitable media coverage would be ensured during the electoral campaign and the post-election periods;
  • the printing and disseminated of 2000 copies of the handbook to political actors in Niamey and in the regions; and
  • facilitating explanatory workshops with political parties and candidates on the rules that will be applied regarding their access to public and private media during the campaigns.

The CSC, with the technical assistance of EISA, published the Handbook in April 2021, and workshops based on it for 75 media practitioners were held on 20 October in Niamey and 13-22 November in several regions countrywide such Diffa, Zinder and Maradi, where political parties are concentrated.

EISA's technical assistance has also enhanced the regulator's approach by enriching its work methodology with key qualitative variables to consider, particularly how candidates are portrayed and in what types of programs, and whether candidates are all subject to the same rules (cost, duration, timing etc) when it comes to paid advertising in public and private media.

EISA further funded the production and airing of the campaign messages of candidates and their supporters in public media (radio, TV, and print). This contributed to equal access of candidates and parties to public media.

Media and election reporting skills training supported

EISA supported the media regulator to strengthen its partnership with media groups and to enhance professional and pluralist coverage by journalists. EISA took advantage of the training sessions with political parties and candidates on the rules governing their access to media in Niamey and regions to include material focused on political pluralism and respect for rules and ethics in journalism, particularly during elections, as well as of fact checking to ensure accurate and impartial election reporting.

To facilitate access to electoral information, EISA encouraged the involvement of Electoral Commission (CENI) experts as trainers so that they could brief journalists on the ongoing electoral operations and so journalists could build connections with key people within CENI with whom they could engage on election preparations and developments.

Social media monitoring

Social media has been strongly used by candidates for their electoral campaigning. Given this situation, EISA assisted the CSC to monitor Facebook (the platform most widely used in Niger) during the presidential election. This was a unique initiative, as very few media regulators monitor social media in West Africa. The monitoring resulted in interesting data being captured, including the use by political parties of digital media, social media as a means of providing voter information and how misinformation and violent speeche are propagated, and by whom etc.

The project provided the CSC with tools for reflection on how social media impact elections in Niger; the impact of regulations on freedom of speech and personal rights; and how to work with in social media actors and bloggers.

Reporting and communication capacity

Previously, the CSC used to publish its media monitoring reports three to six months after an election. EISA's technical assistance has enhanced the reporting methodology and the ability to communicate collected data on a regular basis, so that misinformation or in accurate information can be timely corrected.

The monitoring units were trained in best practices of media and data analysis, and assisted by EISA daily. Two press conferences were held during the electoral period and some preliminary data were communicated before the end of the campaigns.