20.05.2004 General News

Ghana needs peaceful polls - IGP

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Accra, May 20, GNA - The Inspector General of Police, Nana Owusu Nsiah on Thursday reiterated the need to ensure that Election 2004 was conducted in peace to prove that Ghana's democracy had matured. "As we prepare to go to the polls, there is the need for us all to bear in mind the fact that peaceful elections must be achieved in order to prove to the world, who are watching us with keen interest that the successful conduct of our elections in 1992, 1996, and 2002 was not a mirage but the fact that our young democracy has come of age." Nana Owusu Nsiah said.

Addressing a consultative meeting of Senior Police Officers and Heads of Media Institutions and Editors in Accra, the IGP repeated the need for Journalists to be objective, tolerant, circumspect and to respect the ethics of the profession in their activities before, during and after the elections to make Ghana a beacon of peace in West Africa. The meeting held on the theme: "The Need to Have Peaceful Political Party Campaigns and Successful Elections: The Role of the Media" was one of the consultative meetings the Police Administration had been holding with stakeholders on how they could contribute to make the polls peaceful.

Nana Owusu Nsiah said the Police saw the Media as partners in executing their roles in educating and informing the electorate about the activities of political parties, as the Police would be called upon to maintain law and order, in the event of the media touching on peoples sensibilities or inflaming passions in the discharge of their duties. Citing the 1994 Rwandan genocide as an example, he stated the irreparable damage the indiscretionary use of the media could do and emphasised the need to avoid issues based on ethnicity, incitement of one political party against the other, religious sectarianism and chieftaincy disputes.

"The animosity that such acts engender has the propensity to polarise the country, and thereby destroy the peace that we are enjoying today. " I will entreat you as Chief Executives, Managing Editors and Editors of Media Houses to strive to avoid opinionated news reports," Nana Owusu Nsiah said.

He called on producers of phone-in programmes to find a way to discourage callers from inciting people without impinging on the freedom of expression.

He asked the Media to handle information involving the security of the State with care and said they should seek clarification on issues and reports before publishing them.

Mr Wilson Kusi-Atansah, Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), in a speech read for him, said Media Houses should establish a high level of credibility, stating that "you could not reach mass audiences in the multi-cultural and pluralistic media as ours by fabrications and falsifying the news."

He said some Journalists, who put their lives on line to get and publish the truth, needed protection from the Police but inversely the Police and party vigilantes rather tended to brutalise them.

The NMC Chairman recommended to the Police Administration to intensify education of its Officers on the offences relating to Public Offences and Public Elections, so that they would be in full command of the election terrain to enhance their capabilities in dealing with offenders so as to keep the peace.

"The professionalism with which the Police handle and execute their mandate alongside Journalists will make a difference between peaceful and violent elections," Mr Kusi Atansah said, adding: "We call on the Police to be circumspect, fair and firm in the handling of political lawlessness."

He emphasized the need for the Police to have a thorough knowledge of the Criminal Code to be able to check the punishable but commonplace offences of obscenity and pornography.

Ms Ajoa Yeboah Afari, President of the Ghana Journalists' Association, said a free but responsible press was the country's insurance policy for stable democracy.

She called on all stakeholders to play their roles well to ensure violence-free elections.

Mr Yeboah Afari said courses would be organised to equip Journalists to report on the elections.

Mrs Leonora Kyerematen, Co-coordinator of the National Governance Programmed (NGP), said the successful holding of four elections consecutively would indicate that the country's democracy had been consolidated.

She said the NGP was coordinating support for the Media Commission to monitor the elections and announced it was securing a more spacious office for the monitoring of the elections.

In an open forum, Mr Emmanuel Benjamin Ephson, Editor of the Daily Dispatch, said the Journalist were at sea when it came to reporting on Politicians, who made explosive utterances elsewhere, and suggested that such politicians should be exposed for what they were.

Mr Boakye Dankwa Boadi, Chief Editor of the Ghana News Agency (GNA), advised media persons to discern between the group or party interest and the national interest, and place the national interest above the group interest for peaceful elections.

Ms Eva Lokko, Director General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, who chaired the meeting, asked the Police and the Media to collaborate to create a positive synergy to engender peace, before, during and after the elections.

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