Politicians, Media Clash Over Ethics
Media practitioners and politicians, between Friday and Sunday engaged in a three-day give-and-take encounter, with each side accusing the other of being the bad player and fouling the political atmosphere.
Whereas politicians by and large maintained their position that media practice was fraught with professional misdemeanours, the latter frowned upon the position, blaming the other for not minding their utterances.
The platform themed, “Democracy And The Media: Media/Political Parties Relationship In An Election Year”, was created by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) under the think-tank's political parties programme sponsored by the Netherlands' Institute of Multi-Party Democracy.
There was visible disappointment in the expression of some participants when the claims and counter-claims between the two groups appeared to be edging towards polemics. Eventually though this impression gave way to a mutual exchange of ideas and suggestions.
Prof. Kwame Karikari of the School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, a resource person at the workshop, indicated that the media had performed creditably so far, adding that in the run-up to this year's general elections there was less tension and fear as compared to previous periods.
He said in retrospect, “I think we are in heaven”.
According to him, the language of the media was much more refined and improved.
However, Prof Karikari noted that what was absent was proper analysis, saying that the media must be critical, alert and stubborn.
The forthcoming polls, he said, was an opportunity for the country to consolidate democracy stressing that this was the second time a sitting president was leaving office devoid of controversy.
Elections by themselves, the professor noted, contained seeds of controversy but the important thing was how the relevant agencies like the Electoral Commission (EC) and others would manage the situation.
The egghead observed that considering the situation in previous years, there had been marked improvements in the country's media operations.
On the issue of media objectivity, Prof Karikari said the attribute was a new one in media practice, explaining that the history of journalism showed that it was by and large adversarial.
He advised the media to give adequate coverage to other parties beside the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
After Prof. Karikari's presentation, NDC's Kwabena Adjei in his intervention said the subject of 'Lack of Objectivity in Reporting Events' was not adequately treated, to which the professor retorted: “I saw the topic and that was how I decided to tackle it.
Perhaps what you see I don't because I am cocooned where I live in West Legon.” The reaction drew laughter from other participants in the conference room.
The NDC Chairman was obviously not in agreement that there was less tension and fear on the political terrain, pointing out that the state media were not giving equal opportunities to the parties.
When Dr. Kwabena Adjei raised the issue of accuracy and fairness, Prof Karikari disagreed by stating that objectivity only suggested that a media organization should not take a position.
This, he added, did not exist anywhere.
This position was later to receive a boost when Dr. Bonnah Koomson of the University of Ghana School in his presentation observed it was normal for a media organization to endorse a political party or candidate on the eve of an election.
This though, he said, had never had any influence on the outcome of polls.
In his intervention, E.T. Mensah expressed dissatisfaction about what for him was the existence of a culture of silence in some state owned media houses- a development which he said needed to be looked into.
Yaw Buadu Ayeboafo, General Manager of Graphic Communications, whose organizations took a lot of flak from opposition elements at the workshop, pleaded with politicians to answer questions as intelligently as possible because, as he put it, “there are no stupid questions but rather stupid answers.”
Mr. David Ampofo, the Communications Strategist for the CPP Presidential candidate took issues with a headline which reported that Prof Mills had been described as a wild dog.
He explained that perhaps his people were responsible for creating the basis for the headline because the statement they issued had called a group of the candidate's supporters attack dogs.
There was a general consensus though that politicians and media depended on each other in a democracy.
There was a representation from the Ghana Armed Forces and Police in the persons of DSP Kwasi Ofori and Col E.W.K. Nibo both of whom expressed their concerns about media practice in the country, especially its implications on national security.
The NDC, NPP, CPP and the PNC and the various media houses were represented at the engagement which culminated in the issuance of a communiqué on the way forward.
From A.R. Gomda,