Civic education via the radio is essential in a context where a large part of the population has not had access to school and where no other institution – apart from the teaching profession – really fulfils this educational role. Knowledge of democratic institutions, the Constitution and the main laws, mechanisms for the exercise and control of the various powers (executive, legislative, judicial), counter-powers, the role of elected officials, political parties and civil society, human rights, minority rights, etc.
In the lead-up to an election, the role of the journalist is not only to keep the nation informed on the daily progress and any unexpected occurrences in political life with its leaders and their balance of power, but also to broadcast and disseminate this knowledge with regard to the major democratic principles often neglected in the public debate. It is also to allow the public to compare the various political options put to the vote, to get them talking about them and to encourage them to question (as journalists themselves must do) leaders and candidates on their policy statements and their campaign promises. Whether they are alone or accompanied by experts and/or activists from associations or civil society organisations.
Of course, during this period – and among other necessities of life and democratic debate – the journalist must provide the listener with information on the electoral process and the practicalities of exercising the right to vote and the organisation of the ballot.
WHAT GOALS SHOULD YOU SET YOURSELF?
- Improve the level of knowledge of the general public, without turning certain programmes into tedious academic lessons.
- Help raise awareness of the issues of local democratic life, without ever forgetting the historical, national and international context and the geopolitical constraints.
- Reserve the right to challenge/verify the credibility of the electoral process with regard to the political context of the country.
- Help ensure a peaceful atmosphere during the campaign period and after the election, although not at the expense of comparing and contrasting manifestos, teams or points of view.
- Provide listeners with accurate information on the legal and practical conditions for exercising their right to vote, bearing in mind that this is not the essence of democratic life and that it is indeed usually the least exciting part.
- Stay close to the daily concerns of the public, not forgetting that through elections the public is also delegating the power to start a war and build the world of tomorrow.
TYPES OF COVERAGE AND PROGRAMMES
- Create an “election diary”, updated daily, covering both the latest statements from politicians and practical information on the organisation of the ballot.
- Give the public as many opportunities as possible to express their needs and expectations (reports, listeners’ forums, vox pops) in all areas of social and political life (local or national, depending on the type of upcoming election).
- Produce programmes (debates or round-table discussions) where listeners can compare the orientations or specific manifestos of the different candidates.
- Hold debates between journalists or experts on “transverse” subjects (for example: “Where are the women in the 2015 elections?”, “Who are the up and coming leaders?”, “Why is nobody talking about energy and development?”, “Should we be afraid of biometrics?”, etc.)
- Offer interactive programmes where listeners can tell their stories and get answers on issues that concern the general public from experts or committed civil society figures. Examples of topics include, “Will the disabled, sick, inmates, professionals on duty, etc. be able to vote?”, “How is a polling station set up?”, “What are young voters’ priorities in terms of reform?”, etc.