South Africa’s much anticipated elections have come and gone, albeit with some hiccups along the way. Counting is underway, and the final result is expected by Sunday (at the earliest). It’s a strenuous time for journalists as the results are live and require constant monitoring; and numbers, data sets and percentages can be tricky. Here are five tips from the “Journalists’ Guide to Ethical Election Reporting” by Media Matters to help journalists report responsibly and clearly.

  1. Be accurate and verify:

Getting the facts right is essential. Always verify information from credible sources before sharing it. Double-check vote counts and confirm details from multiple reliable sources to avoid spreading misinformation.

  1. Explain the process:

Help your audience understand how votes are counted, the role of election officials, and safeguards against fraud. Clear explanations build trust and reduce confusion or suspicion about the results.

  1. Stay ethical:

Maintain impartiality and avoid partisanship. Give balanced coverage to all parties and don’t let personal biases or outside pressures affect your reporting. Ethical journalism means being fair and equitable in your coverage.

  1. Address delays and discrepancies:

Be prepared to calmly explain any delays or discrepancies in vote counting. Provide context for issues like high voter turnout or technical glitches and report on efforts to resolve them.

  1. Handle election night wisely:

Post night, there’s a propensity to rush to report updates.Focus on accuracy and completeness over being first. Timely, reliable updates are more valuable than rushed, inaccurate ones.

At this milestone and highly emotional period for our country, it’s important that journalists provide accurate, transparent, and ethical news so that the public receives clear and reliable information, to foster a well-informed electorate. Ultimately, responsible election reporting upholds the integrity of democracy and reinforces the core values of journalism. By prioritising accuracy and fairness, journalists can help build a stronger, more informed society.