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.

2021


CSC supported in the organisation of a symposium on 30 years of media regulation in Niger

4 - 6 December 2021

EISA provided technical and financial support to the CSC in the organisation of its international symposium on 30 years of media relation in Niger from 4 to 6 December 2021. Ninety-two participants, of which 18 were women attended. EISA contributed to the drafting of the Terms of Reference and preparing the agenda for the event. This was an opportunity for visibility for EISA where our support was highlighted at an event attended by international partners and experts invited by the CSC. During this symposium, a presentation was made on the dynamics of social media during the last electoral process. This was the topic of a study initiated and funded by EISA.

CSCs supported in the preparation and the proposal of electoral reforms

17 - 26 November 2021

As part of the support to CSC's advocacy to reforming the legal and institutional framework for the media in Niger, EISA supported the organisation of a workshop to which experts were invited from November 17 to 26, 2021. At the end of this brainstorming workshop, a draft bill on the electronic press regime was examined and adopted as well as a draft bill setting the status and method of financing community and associative radio and television stations. These proposals will be submitted to the government before being transferred to the parliament.

CSC agents trained on institutional communication

15 - 19 November 2021

Eight CSC senior officers participated in a workshop focussed on strengthening their capacity on institutional communication from November 15 -- 19, 2021. This training enabled the participants to assimilate the basic principles of institutional communication; appropriate the necessary methodological elements and be able to build/develop a strategy and an internal and external communication plan. Following this activity, the CSC improved its external communication by making its website more attractive and up to date.

Support to the implementation of CSC post election activities

After an inclusive assessment of the CSC's post-election needs, EISA is able to plan post elections support to the CSC. The needs identified include an effective transfer and reinforcing the appropriation of the media monitoring technology and methodology provided by EISA; advocacy actions for the inclusion of electronic/online media regulations in the Niger media legal framework, and the necessity to deepen reflection on the impact of social media on elections. Based on these needs, EISA has planned the appropriate support which will be reported on in the next reporting period.

Completion of the study on the dynamics of social media in Niger Elections

The study was previously carried out by a national consultant appointed by EISA before the elections to provide an assessment of action that should be taken regarding social media and its contribution for peaceful elections. In its initial findings, the report showed Facebook as the most used digital platform in Niger. This enabled CSC to undertake a pilot monitoring project focused on Facebook. In agreement with the CSC, EISA completed the study using election data, to analyse the social media content during elections, the nature, sources and targets of hate speech and other relevant variables that could enrich the reflections on the legal framework and practices on digital media regulation. The study will serve as an important working document during an international conference on social media regulation to be hosted by CSC in November 2021, with EISA's financial and technical support.

Support the production and publication of CSC's 2020-2021 election final report

EISA provided the necessary technical support to the CSC for the production and publication of the final 2020-2021 election report, ensuring that the content meets the required quality standards. The report highlighted the actions taken by the CSC for equitable and fair access of candidates and parties to public and private media during the various campaigns which contributed to inclusive and peaceful elections. The report also provides firsthand information and statistics on the level of airtime availed to candidates and political parties by public and private media during the local, parliamentary, and presidential elections. The report gives recommendations on the appropriate use of the media during electoral processes and the improvement of future electoral processes.

Evaluation of the media monitoring equipment for further assistance

The use of the media monitoring software provided by EISA to CSC is an important asset to the project. This latest generation software, IMAS, has many useful functionalities that can benefit CSC. Part of EISA's support is to ensure that CSC has the knowledge and skill to use the technology. As the electoral monitoring was exclusively focused on elections, the capacity building is also related to a broader focus media monitoring methodology, including monitoring social media, gender and social pluralism. To ensure long-term impact, EISA is assisting the CSC in drafting a media monitoring handbook to be used by the regulator's monitors during upcoming electoral processes.

Initiate the evaluation of institutional and organizational processes of the CENI and the CSC

Supposed to start at the launching of the project, the organisational and institutional development could not be done due to CENI's request to focus on the most priority activities related to organising the various elections. After the completion of these elections, the current post electoral period is appropriate to launch this activity. EISA has held discussions and meetings with CENI and CSC, as well as with the High Commission for State Modernization (HCME) responsible for the implementation of this exercise. EISA also finalised draft Terms of Reference and shared with the institutions to serve as the basis for discussion for their input and ensure their involvement. This organisational and institutional development will be a key element to enable the two institutions to accomplish their respective mission and reinforce their professionalism.

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.