The National Media Commission (NMC), is to collaborate with the National Communications Authority (NCA), to ensure that the media is not used to forment trouble during the 2012 elections.
The Chairman of the NMC, Mr Kabral Blay-Amihere, who stated this in Accra yesterday, said the NMC would also, with the support of the European Union (EU), launch a monitoring programme to assess the media effectively this year.
Mr Blay-Amihere was speaking at a dialogue with editors and chief executives of media organisations and advertising experts on political advertising on an election day.
An administrative rule of the Electoral Commission (EC) requires all political parties to stop advertising 24 hours before elections and not to hold rallies on election day.
The rule emanated from the belief that there is a certain amount of calmness needed on election day and also that rallies on election day could trigger conflict.
However, during the last presidential and parliamentary elections, many media outlets, especially the electronic media, ignored that rule and advertised on election day, a clear attempt to influence thinking.
Some particular radio stations, especially, outside of the capital, continuously played the voice of a member of a party who had said that he could not sleep in peace if the presidential candidate of his party was elected president.
The dialogue was to reflect on such issues and discuss whether advertising by political parties in the media constituted campaign and if it should be banned.
It also discussed the issue of contractual agreement between political parties and the media and what the liabilities of the parties to the various contracts would be if the NMC were to institute a form of ban on campaign in the media on an election day.
It was organised by the NMC with support from the British High Commission.
Mr Blay-Amihere said the issue of political advertising on election day in the past provided a potential source of conflict and tension, and it was important that long before the election, all stakeholders agreed on what would be best practice in advertising for free, fair and peaceful elections.
He hinted that the NMC would hold a similar dialogue with political parties in the coming weeks on the same issue and also discuss the reviewed guidelines for the state-owned-media that seek to fulfil constitutional provisions that all parties were afforded fair and equitable access to the state-owned media and fairness in the private media.
“These things we must do if we are to ensure that the media become a positive instrument in the elections and the strengthening of democracy in Ghana,” he said
Mr Blay-Amihere said in the last four elections, the NMC had lived up to its responsibilities by organising programmes that were calculated to ensure free and fair elections and with specific focus on the media’s own obligation in creating the needed levelled playing field that gave comfort to all parties and interest groups.
“The NMC holds the view that this year’s elections like the previous ones should see Ghana maintaining its reputation as a model of peace, stability and unity for Africa,” he said.
Mr Francis Dadzie, a member of the Advertisers Association of Ghana (AAG), said the association was working with the EC on effective political advertising.
He noted that since most of the offensive advertising was done in the regions, a dialogue would be held in the regions with the teams to “fine tune” adverts.
He said, however, the buck stopped with the media houses and urged them to stop political advertising at the period stipulated.
The General Manager in charge of Newspapers of the Graphic Communications Group Ltd, Mr Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, called for the establishment of a fund for audio and visual media organisations, and a system of evaluation put in place for disbursement of the fund according to how they contributed towards peaceful elections.
He also stressed the need to involve the political parties in the process since they employed all kinds of means to make their presence felt.
Mr David Ampofo, a communications expert, said attention should also be focused on the advertising before election day.
The Executive Secretary of the NMC, Mr George Sarpong, apart from stressing the need for monitoring the media, advocated a sanctions regime.
A representative of the British High Commission, Mr Neil Mckeilop, said there were risks if high standards in the media were not observed.
He said the media could become a force for fanning discontent and dispute between different groups, including at election time, with negative and damaging consequences, adding that that was a scenario Ghana needed to avoid.
He noted that while people were dependent on the media for what they knew and how they related to the world of politics, political leaders relied on the media to communicate their message.
“That is why responsibility and the public good should be the objective of every media organisation, seeking to best serve both those doing the communicating and those communicated to,” he added.