Guidelines on Political Journalism drawn up by the NMC
8/3/2012 5:34:09 PM -
1. POLITICAL JOURNALISM
Political journalism is about how the media cover politics. Politics is about the activities of political parties, politicians, electoral candidates, electoral processes and political institutions. Since politicians and political institutions exist to serve the people political journalism is as much about politicians as it is about ordinary people whose interest both in politics and journalism must serve.
Political journalism should aim at engendering public debate. This may best be done by collecting and disseminating truthful, unbiased information on the activities of political parties and candidates to the public and in turn offering opportunity for the public to express their views on the parties, candidates and their programmes. Qualitative political journalism is obtained when the media ensure the exchange of views and ideas between politicians and the public. This means media practitioners must:
1.1 Seek to provide the public with information that would enable the electorate to make intelligent choices during elections.
1.2 Provide comprehensive, fair, impartial and objective gathering and presentation of information.
2 ACCESS TO INFORMATION
The public's right to information is a fundamental democratic right. It is therefore non-negotiable and cannot be circumvented. Article 21 (1) provides that:
All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.
This provision places dual responsibility on the media. First, it enjoins the media to honour the public's right to information to enable them participate actively in the governance of the nation. Second, and deriving from the first responsibility, it places an injunction on the media not to conceal information from the public.
3 COVERAGE OF PERSONALITIES VERSUS ISSUES
Political journalism must balance coverage of political personalities and events with analysis of issues in the overall context of good governance.
3.1 Media practitioners must give the electorate every opportunity to discuss and understand the issues.
3.2 Apart from providing information about the candidates, media practitioners should balance discussions of personalities with analysis of issues and must offer a forum for the public to participate in public discussions.
4 PROMOTING PEACE
Peace is the bedrock of progress and development. Political journalism must therefore aim at promoting peace. This demands active and purposive search for ideas that promote peace and national cohesion.
4.1 In covering politics, the media must endeavour to identify the critical issues that can trigger conflict and encourage dispassionate discussion. Such issues may include questions of marginalization, identity politics based on religion, ethnicity, etc.
4.2 Views that have the potential to promote violent conflict, especially relating to political, social, cultural, racial, ethnic and religious sensibilities, should be handled with great sensitivity.
4.3 In covering political conflicts, analysis of the causes and issues involved in the conflict must be balanced with efforts towards promoting peace. Institutions and individuals involved in efforts at resolving the conflict must be given opportunities to highlight efforts at peace building.
5 PROVIDING CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND
During election campaigns and in the day-to-day coverage of political activities, media practitioners must arm themselves with a good grounding in the history of the country. This knowledge will enable an understanding of the alignments (actual or perceived) that inform political activities in Ghana and help them to identify and properly analyze issues at national and local levels.
6 COVERING POLITICAL PROGRAMMES/MANIFESTOES AND CANDIDATES
6.1 The Media must avoid deliberate distortion of any political party's activity and information to make the programmes and manifestoes of political parties and candidates intelligible to the electorate by subjecting them to objective analysis.
6.2 It is the duty of the media to help the electorate assess the candidates to make elections meaningful. This duty requires them to provide accurate information about the candidates and also reflect the views of the public to candidates.
6.3 The media must avoid deliberate distortion of any political party's activity and information.
7 CAMPAIGN BROADCASTS
7.1 Journalists must be reminded that the airwaves are a public resource that must be used equitably and judiciously. Stations that misuse the airwaves risk their licenses being withdrawn
7.2 Apart from the normal coverage of political activities, including campaigns, broadcasting stations may carry free political broadcast for each registered party.
7.3 Terms and conditions of the broadcasts should be the same for all parties.
7.4 Journalist must be reminded that air time is public property that must be used equitably and that when misused license would be withdrawn.
8 POLITICAL ADVERTISING
8.1 Media houses may adopt the rules on political advertising contained in the NMC Guidelines for Fair and Equitable Coverage of Political Parties by the State-Owned Media or develop their own transparent rules on political advertising in consultation with the political parties.
8.2 Content of political advertising should conform to standards of good taste and decency and should not be offensive, abusive or libelous.
8.3 Political advertisements should conform to the rules and should be in good taste not set to libel other opponents.
8.4 Each media institution may constitute an in-house committee to meet periodically to vet all advertisements emanating from political parties, candidates and other political stakeholders.
9 COVERING OPINION POLLS
To avoid willful bias or unwitting manipulation, the media should include in reports of opinion polls the following:
9.1 The name of the person or organisation which conducted the poll.
9.2 The name of the person or organisation which commissioned or sponsored the poll.
9.3 The nature of questions which were put to respondents and any explanation or information given to respondents which could affect their understanding of the questions.
9.4 A description of the population under study, and a description of the sampling procedures and sample size.
9.5 The period when the poll was conducted
9.6 Places and locations where the poll was conducted.
10 POLITICAL INVOLVEMENTS OF MEDIA PERSONNEL
10.1 Media practitioners, particularly those who work for the state-owned media, must avoid doing direct politics since it may affect/jeopardize their credibility and integrity.
10.2 Media practitioners, irrespective of political party affiliations and beliefs, should remain impartial in their dealings with political parties and in particular should be guided by the Code of Ethics of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA).
11 ENDORSEMENTS OF CANDIDATES
The state owned media shall not endorse a political party or candidate since they are not mandated to do so.
12 FULL COVERAGE OF ELECTION PROCESS
12.1 Media houses should not limit their political coverage to just campaigns. Coverage should be extended to encompass all phases of the electoral process leading up to the declaration of the results and the immediate post-election period.
12.2 As far as possible, the media should endeavour to provide coverage at all levels of political campaigning from the constituency to the national level.
12.3 The guidelines of the GJA, the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG) and the Electoral Commission (EC) should be adopted in the coverage of Election Day activities.
12.4 The media may call election results ahead of the Electoral Commission but must qualify them as provisional, yet to be certified by the Electoral Commission.
13 ABUSE OF INCUMBENCY
13.1 In their reportage, media practitioners must distinguish between the government and the activities of its political party.
13.2 Presentation of government activities during elections should be weighed carefully to ensure that the incumbent government does not gain unfair access to the media. Bona fide news should be covered without giving the impression of bias.
14 BRIBES AND INDUCEMENTS
Media practitioners must refrain from accepting offers of money and other such inducements as it may compromise their integrity and professionalism.
15 ACCURACY AND INDEPENDENCE
15.1 Journalists must check their facts, avoiding inaccurate, gratuitously malicious, scandalous or defamatory publications.
15.2 Journalists should not solely depend on handouts in view of the possibility of promoting 'conduit journalism,' that is, passing of news without filtration, refinement or editing of any kind.
16.1 Hate Speech - Media must avoid Hate Speech
16.2 Any statements and press releases of political parties that contain insulting language or sentiments that could lead to public unrest or breach of peace should not be published /aired.
16.3 All quotations, especially when they are politically controversial or are defamatory in language and terms, for example, jargons, technical abbreviations and political euphemisms not clearly or easily understandable, should be verified and fully explained.
16.4 Controversial or offensive references to opponents must be avoided, if at all possible, unless there is a clear justification defensible in a court of law.