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26.10.2008 Social News

Aliu urges journalists to consider national unity and stability first

By gna

Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama on Saturday urged the media to consider national stability and unity first in the course of their work.

Speaking at the 13th Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Awards/Dinner night held in Accra, he said although the media had “rough edges”, they had made enormous contributions to democratic consideration.

“Many of our people, literate and illiterate, urban and rural, have been brought into the democratic process as the media ingenuously enables participation in several languages through all manner of programmes,” Alhaji Mahama said.

The event that was under the theme: “Using the Media to Promote National Unity and Stability in an Election Year,” was sponsored by corporate Ghana, including MTN and Unilever.

The vice president said although the country was grateful for the opportunity to participate in the democratic process through the media, “we could be better off if we could be assured that the media's first and foremost consideration is a duty to national unity and stability”.

Alhaji Mahama said the people also had a role to play to help the media keep a good balance.

“We need to continue to recognise and reward excellence. We must support professionalism through training. We need to come to terms with the pervasive nature of knowledge dissemination in the modern age and facilitate access to quality information.”

Alhaji Mahama noted that the media had been fruitful and multiplied since 1992, when the 4th Republican Constitution was promulgated.

He said “Harnessing modern technology, several of our weekly newspapers now come out daily, whilst we have rapidly moved beyond print, radio and television to streaming news on the internet.”

He noted that problems, however, remained with the delicate balance between responsibility and recklessness being of great concern.

Alhaji Mahama said “Yet in a fledgling democracy like ours, it may well be better to have a reckless media than a docile one, provided the excesses arise from natural exuberance rather than calculated malice.”

He noted that election years were “especially fragile” saying what the media chose to highlight and hammer was what influenced the mood and determined the attitudes of the larger public.

Mr Ransford Tetteh, President of the GJA, said the theme for the event was in recognition of the crucial role that the media played in achieving credible and peaceful elections.

“The theme no doubt affords us the opportunity as media practitioners to reflect on our duty, responsibility and overall commitment to contributing to a free, fair and transparent election.

“This reflection is very necessary if the media are to help preserve the peace which we all very much cherish.”

Mr Tetteh said it was the hope of the GJA that the theme would also remind all and sundry, particularly the government, Electoral Commission, political parties, individual politicians and civil society of their responsibility towards ensuring that the elections were credible and peaceful.

He said there was a record 208 entries and the Award Committee declared that 10 out of the 16 competitive awards deserved to be won. There was no entry for the Television Feature category.

Mr Tetteh said the Awards Committee's report noted that there was poor packaging and labelling on many of the entries leading to their disqualification.

He said the committee had suggested to the GJA to properly inform media houses on what was expected of their staff in submitting entries for the annual awards.

Mr Tetteh said other recommendations were that the GJA established clear guidelines on what constituted a publication in the light of its difficulties with internet and wire stories that had not been published in any conventional newspaper.

“The committee also says there is the need for mentoring and coaching in the various media houses and advised media houses to create an environment for continuous interaction between senior and junior journalists as a means of passing on skills and experience in the profession.”

Mr Tetteh gave the assurance that the national executive would hold clinics throughout the country before the next competition was launched to address some of the challenges.