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16.01.2009 Feature Article

Gruelling elections, 'pet-peeve' journalists

Gruelling elections, 'pet-peeve' journalists
LISTEN JAN 16, 2009

In the afternoon that Ghanaians were asked to brace themselves for another round of election before a president would be elected, everybody waited on journalists to bring them the news. Both 7th and 28th December 2008 elections had failed to produce a president. Though Ghanaians had a fair idea as to who was really in the lead at the end of the 28th poll, it became imperative that Tain, a small community in the Brong Ahafo Region, would have to decide who became president.

Both local and international journalists have been busy scrambling for news about the elections. Everybody wanted to be the first with the news, and without a shred of doubts they went at every length to ensure the information hungry public was fed with the right facts. The number of local journalists that covered the elections was difficult to estimate beyond the well known media homes in the country. The foreign media were equally represented; BBC, Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP and AP among others. They were all struggling for the same news item about Ghana's elections.

At the electoral commission for example, both road and television networks had setup bases ready to send the received information before they step into their offices. Depending on which news source one believes in, one is bound to hook on to it. Joy FM, Citi FM, Happy FM, GTV, TV Africa, GBC-Radio and Metro TV were some of the visible networks available. Metro and TV Africa brought their OB Vans to the Electoral Commission to ensure they out pace each other. TV3 had a base inside the conference room of the EC and their reporter Henry Herbert Malm would, occasionally, give an update of events at the commission. GTV's Ekuba and Metro TV's Fati Shaibu also took their positions ready to relay whatever information they had about the elections before they step into their studios.

Journalists are natural gossips and I saw a lot more than just reporting on the elections. It was not only the ladies passing their eyes around the rooms looking for something usual to comment on. The guys also went in search of something unusual to say about their female colleagues. A lot of off-journalism reporting went on in the room. All was happening at the time the EC was said to be locked up in a room with officials of the parties.

I heard a bizarre conversation about a female journalist who as a result of her faith had covered her entire body with cloth, leaving her face for the viewing of the public. She became the subject of discussion between two local journalists. One of them looked at her and quietly told his colleague, "I wish I could see beyond her cloth." Whatever they said afterwards I was not privy to.

Outside the main hall Joy FM's technical man Mohammed Yusif was engaged in a conversation with BBC's David Amanor. The latter appeared to be seeking clarification from Mohammed regarding the right position for him to mount his Bigan to broadcast live to London. After five minutes David Amanor went on top of a Toyota pick-up truck to set up his dish. Few meters away from him was Citifm's Seyram Adorno. He was on air updating listeners about the happenings at the EC.

Samuel Agyeman of Metro TV and his colleagues were busily trying to get the connection to their main studio. He went into the van, dialled a number to try and get the connection. The Joyfm crew, who had received tongue lashing from gurus of the NPP, was also around. Akwasi Sarpong was busily updating listeners about the happenings in the room. The room itself was crammed with journalists chasing the same story - election results. They all had their ears to different things at the same time. Any small noise and they'll all rush to it only to find out nothing was happening. Two hours after EC officials failed to turn with the results, some of them went outside. Thirty minutes later information went round that the EC was about to announce the results. Everybody rushed to the room, adding on to the concentrated heat in the room. But nothing happened.

They started flying all kinds of ridiculous rumours in the room. Some left the room and started calling their stations to be put on air to pass on those ridiculous rumours.

Despite the hardwork some journalists were making to ensure the true votes obtained by the winning party is put out there, GTV through its website was giving out its own fake and concocted figures. When the station was exposed it pulled the website off. Contrary to whatever figures everybody had, GTV's team were receiving other figures from an unknown source, and through the power of text messages, many were directed to the website for the latest figures. That single most ill-motivated action could have pushed this country into something ugly. Thankfully or unfortunately Raybon Bulley had to be sacrificed for the fraud. As to whether he was carrying out the instruction of a high authority is left to his own conscience. But we are also told that the fake figures that gave the NPP's Nana Akufo-Addo more votes than the NDC's John Mills from 229 constituencies were imputed from Kumasi. The coming days will expose the truth.

Some journalists also received sound beatings from angry supporters of some of the parties. The disturbing aspect was when a fellow journalist was said to have incited party supporters against his colleagues. He relinquished his professional duty to the background and led a misguided mob to attack his colleagues. He did that simply for Noko Fio - what a shame. When all was said and done it became three rounds of elections, three different results but same journalists covering them all.

Credit: Osabutey ANNY [[email protected]]

Osabutey ANNY
Osabutey ANNY, © 2009

The author has 3 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: OsabuteyANNY

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