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12.11.2008 Elections

Avoid sensationalism; Journalists warned

Avoid sensationalism; Journalists warned

With less than four weeks to the December general elections, the media have been exhorted to exhibit a “high sense of responsibility” to ensure fairness, factuality and accuracy in reporting of incidents to enable the country to achieve free, fair, credible and peaceful polls.

“The excitement that characterises elections must be tampered with a high sense of responsibility in reporting. The media must see themselves as the vanguard of our young democracy,” said Information and National Orientation Minister, Mr Stephen Asamoah-Boateng at the Meet-The-Press series in Accra on Tuesday.

Whilst calling on media outlets to “quickly” identify, train and assign reporters for the elections, Mr. Asamaoh-Boateng implored radio and television presenters to “fairly and firmly” manage callers to their programmes.

Making reference to an FM where a member of Parliament insisted he was going to carry a gun to the polling station during the election, he asked such presenters not to allow such utterances that sent negative signals to the public.

Mr. Asamoah-Boateng said anyone, who had the privilege of being on radio or television to debate or present a position on any matter ought to do so with a sense of responsibility, because such a platform was not a right but just an opportunity to reach a wider audience.

“During this electioneering period, we cannot allow a few disgruntled people to abuse such privileges on radio, television and to some extent, newspapers to sow seeds of discord in Ghana…The prize might be too great to pay.”

“It is therefore our collective responsibility to keep those recalcitrant voices away from our radio and television stations and newspapers.

“Their right to freedom of expression can be done through their individual vocal cords and not a mass medium in times like this - a highly charged electioneering period,” he said.

The Minister also called on the leadership of the competing political parties to exercise decorum, restraint and understanding “to cope with the tension and the pressures before, during and the after the polls.”

“The mark of a good leader is to rise above pettiness and unnecessary distractions,” he said.

He said government had noted with “sadness” the recent pronouncements by leaders of the opposition political parties intending to incite the public and tarnish the reputations of state officials, particularly the President, Ministers and some members of the judiciary.

“All our leaders have put in a lot of efforts and sacrifices to reach where they are in society now. No one has a right to put out smear campaign against anyone, when he or she has not provided a shred of evidence to support any allegations,” he said.

Mr. Asamoah-Boateng stressed the importance of support to the Electoral Commission as it prepared towards the polls, calling on all contending parties to address their concerns directly to the Commission for prompt resolutions rather than rush to the public with allegations and rumours.

He charged stakeholders in the elections, whether in government or opposition, to abide by the principles and rules governing the elections and to respect the decisions of personnel of the Electoral Commission.

“We do not need to attack the integrity of the very institution that has been tried and tested in elections since 1992.”

The Minister asked Ghanaians to support the efforts of the security agencies and to trust them to do their jobs well, calling on public spirited ones to expose those who may be preparing to cause trouble during the polls.

He commended the decision of the security agencies to harmonise their operations to show their preparedness to meet the challenges of the elections and relayed government's confidence of their effectiveness and efficiency during the period.