The need for journalists and other media practitioners to ensure fair, accurate and balanced reporting and commentary in the run up to the upcoming election has been the key point in speeches and exhortations of some personalities at various fora countrywide.
We do not think that these well-meaning personalities intend to gag the press; rather, they are trying to drive home the point, which easily gets overlooked, that journalists, by the nature of their profession, could easily misuse the power of the media words.
The sum of the appeals from sections of the society is for the media to exercise caution, especially the tendency to compromise on facts, objectivity and balance in the reportage of and commentary on political activities.
At a recent workshop held for media practitioners from the Western Region in Takoradi to update them on the Electoral Commission's preparations towards the upcoming election, Stephen Opoku-Mensah, the regional director of EC, spoke the mind of many when he pleaded that though the commission could not restrict the media from reporting the election, they should do so with the greatest circumspection in the interest of the nation.
“This is because the media can make or unmake the election”.
Being a media institution ourselves, it is with great trepidation that we dare to comment on standards of journalism in Ghana.
However, the time has come when society's greatest fear of the moment – the irresponsible and dangerous use of the media – has to be voiced as all of us stand on a precipice looking dangerously into a chasm into which all of us can fall.
We make bold to say that with the proliferation of journalism training schools, some of whose curricula and faculty have not been approved by the National Accreditation Board, it is doubtful if, in talking about ethics and standards, everybody is reading from the same page.
A dangerous practice which has come to take on the character of a trend is the freedom to say just anything as long as any citizen has enough phone units to make a call to a radio station in the middle of a discussion programme.
These interventions range from outright and deliberate insults to contributions totally devoid of facts.
Truth is thrown to the dogs and decency has ceased to exist in the dictionary of mass communication as political party representatives outdo each other in the ability to lie and insult.
The Times can only remind politicians who get invited to radio stations that they would not be spared when the brimstone and fire they preach become a reality.
We urge the avoidance of negative and emotive language, sensationalism and character assassination.
For journalists who are into this journalism of insults and deliberate distortion of facts, we can only serve this reminder: that nemesis always caught up with the perpetrator of evil.
Of course, the Times knows all too well that criticism is healthy, especially constructive criticism, and must be encouraged.