Accra, May 28,GNA - Discussants at a roundtable on Media and 2004 Elections in Accra on Friday unanimously decided that all media houses should adopt ground rules for the coverage of the general election to ensure fair play and national cohesion.
The consensus, which was the outcome of three hours of deliberations among the resource persons mainly from the School of Communication Studies (SCS) of the University of Ghana, Legon, Journalists and representatives of some of the political parties, was captured in a 11- point resolution that highlighted the importance of high professional standards.
The roundtable, the first in a series of a nation-wide collaboration between the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the French Embassy and the United Nations Development Programme, agreed on the need for a code of conduct and guidelines for election coverage, the use of decent language by Journalists and Politicians. Equal access for all political parties and the marginalized, remuneration of Journalists on assignments to avoid the situation where they compromised their ethical standards were some of the issues discussed.
Professor Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh, Director of the SCS, who spoke on: "Election Coverage: Access to the Media" slammed as "Professional incompetence" preferential treatment given by the media to some political parties.
He also described as unscientific, the opinion surveys being carried out by the media on the general election, explaining that it was a special area of reporting that required expertise.
Professor Ansu-Kyeremeh said Journalists must distinguish between presidential aspirants and presidential candidates to determine when to invoke the constitutional requirements that called for equal coverage of political parties.
He explained that political candidates have technical definitions accorded them by the Electoral Commission (EC) and until the Commission had issued a warrant to be filled by a presidential aspirant, he or she cannot hold out himself or herself as a candidate to enjoy the privileges spelt out in the Constitution.
Prof. Ansu-Kyeremeh said the phone-in-programmes of radio stations that had been an issue of public concern was the by-product of lack of co-ordination between the National Communication Authority and the National Media Commission on regulation on broadcasting and content of programmes.
Dr Anthony Bonnah Koomson, a Senior Lecturer at the SCS, who spoke on: "Evaluation of 2000 Elections Coverage" was critical of Journalists who doubled as politicians in the discharge of their professional duties.
He said the practice led to serious breeches in professional standards and a conflict of interests in the role of Journalists as watchdogs.
Dr Bonnah Koomson tasked the GJA to take leadership role in assisting Journalists at the institutional level to improve their competencies.
Mr Jean Michel Berrit, French Ambassador, said the interest of the French Government in the roundtable was in conformity with plans to give institutional training to Journalists to make them autonomous.
Mr Alfred Sallia Fawundu, UNDP Resident Co-ordinator, said the roundtable would be extended to Journalists in Kumasi, Tamale and Takoradi to facilitate peaceful and successful elections that would maintain Ghana as an oasis of stability in the West Africa Sub-Region. Dr Audrey Gadzekpo, a Lecturer at the SCS, who was the moderator of the roundtable, called on Journalists to observe the Notice of Election issued by the EC as a convention for the official timetable for political campaign. Journalists must also be mindful of their gate keeping function to ensure the highest journalistic standards.