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SO&U boss advocates industry regulation to curb political smear campaigns

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By Princewill Ekwujuru

Group Managing Director of SO&U Group, Mr. Udeme Ufot has urged stakeholders in the communication industry to take a critical look at issues concerning management of electioneering campaign communications, specifically during the 2019 electioneering year.

The SO&U boss who was speaking at the forum on Political Communication, organized by the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) in Abuja, called for campaign communications to be fair and truthful enough to aid democratic choice by the electorate and devoid of any traits that could precipitate violent conflicts.

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In a paper titled, “Trends and Consequences of Smear Political Campaigns”, he said: “ political smear campaigns utilize unverifiable rumours and distortions, half-truths and even outright lies. Even when the facts are seen to lack substance, it targets reputation; in most cases it has already tarnished reputation before the truth is known. Often such targets are typically forced to focus on correcting the false or erroneous impression rather than the real issue”

He cited that when political campaigns are not issue based, there is a strong tendency to dwell on theatrics, verbal assaults and character assassination. Contrasting this with more sophisticated environments, where political campaigns often combine the three prong approach of advocacy, contrast and attack, he stressed that “their campaigns are more professionally packaged to associate the candidate with salient issues and subject the electorate holds dear”

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To succeed, Ufot charged communicators to engage deeply with the people, conduct research and analysis to arrive at communication that would most resonate with the people. Reiterating that such exercise requires some rigor of process, sound strategizing, discipline on the part of the candidate to subject himself to the professional management of his communications consultants, as well as effective programme funding

Similarly, he challenged media organizations to maintain a professional stance by discouraging airing or publishing of political advertisements without due vetting and approval  by the regulatory authorities. Whilst charging, industry regulators to live up to their statutory responsibilities by ensuring that all contraventions of the regulatory process are appropriately sanctioned.

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