INFORMING THE PEOPLE
Many people of the older generation remember with nostalgia the days when mobile cinema vans toured the country’s nooks and crannies, explaining government polices, giving health education and showing films on national and world events.
The effectiveness of the mobile cinema messages is borne out by the fact that decades later, some people can still sing some of the songs and refer to some of the anecdotes used by the cinema van commentators to explain political or social messages, not forgetting the health advice.
We are reminded of this important grass roots communication strategy by a report carried in our issue of yesterday, May 22, about a training workshop at Koforidua, for field staff of the Information Services Department in the Eastern Region.
The workshop was to prepare cinema commentators, mobile cinema and district information officers for a two-week sensitisation programme on the dissemination in the region of information on various government policies, programmes and activities.
During the two-week public education, they will give talks and show films on such subjects as the National Health insurance Scheme, the School Feeding Programme, the Capitation Grant and the National Orientation Policy.
In view of the many new initiatives in the country, as well as the challenges of the present times, it is important that the public gets a clear understanding of policies and events, especially in relation to how these affect their lives.
However, it is easy for unscrupulous people to play on people’s ignorance, notably in the present politically charged atmosphere.
The danger of miscommunication and misunderstanding of even good intentions of the government is very real, especially in the run-up to the general election in December.
There is also the danger of political opponents massaging information to their advantage and to the detriment of their opponents.
One only has to listen to some of the contributions on the radio station phone-in programmes, for example, to get an idea of the danger.
Half-truths and twisted information are presented as facts to gain an advantage – and these in turn are repeated by listeners if no correction is done immediately. In some cases, it takes years to uproot such misinformation.
We agree with the statement made by the Eastern Regional Minister Mr Kwadwo Afram-Asiedu, who opened the ISD workshop, that mismanaged information is capable of bringing about war and chaos.
We were happy to learn sometime ago that the ISD now has a good number of cinema vans for its public education campaigns. We hope that the ISD is mounting similar public education campaigns in all the other regions.
It is essential for the ISD not only to have a presence in the regions, but also to mount such campaigns on a sustained basis to complement the work being done by the National Commission for Civic Education.
What is also important, as Mr Afram-Asiedu pointed out to the ISD officers, is that they should not only tell the people about the policies of the government, but they should also bring a feedback on the people’s views to the government.