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28.05.2004 Regional News

National integration facing a test this election year - Zakariah

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Tamale, May 28, GNA- A media consultant, Mr Adam B. T. Zakariah, has said national integration could be maintained if the media gave due recognition to the governed and the non-governed in a fair and responsible manner.

Mr Zakariah was speaking at a public forum organised by the Northern Regional branch of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to mark "World Press Freedom Day". The theme for the celebration of the Day was: "Radio, Prospects and Challenges in Nation-building". The forum was to provide an opportunity for members of the public to interact with media practitioners in the region. Mr Zakariah, who is also an Assistant Registrar at the University for Development Studies (UDS), said radio had a big role to play in ensuring peaceful election and urged those in the electronic media to live up to expectation.

He however wondered whether the radio is adequately prepared to play this function.

"Is radio broadcasting refined enough to play a meaningful role in nation-building and are radio journalists adequately and professionally trained to promote nation building?" he asked.

Mr Zakariah noted that radio broadcasting had changed saying, " while quality has been enhanced in some cases, mediocrity has surfaced in other instances".

He said: "Political preferences, tribal sentiments and traditional preference and biases, for instance, have become clear among some radio stations and between radio broadcasters", adding, "these are threatening nation-building and national unity". He observed that some radio stations are clearly tilted to either the government or the opposition while others are fairly balanced in terms of allotment of airtime, coverage and analysis of events and issues.

Mr Zakariah said while some "FM" radio stations in the Tamale Metropolis were airing programmes aimed at promoting peace and stability in the area, others were fanning chieftaincy, religious, inter tribal conflicts.

Mr Alhassan Imoru, Northern Region chairman of the GJA cautioned radio stations not to be swayed by profit motives and allow their stations to be used by people to propagate their hidden agenda. He said: "In this election year, any unguarded and irresponsible contributions or programmes relayed on radio stations could promote conflict.

He therefore called on radio stations in the Metropolis to redirect their programmes and attention to development news to calm the conflict situation in the area.

Mr Edward Ameyibor, General Manager of a local "Diamond FM" radio station said the purpose of the media was to tell the truth and to give voice to the voiceless in matters of national interest.

He said the role of the media is to help unite the people for development and called on the radio stations to be creative and resist the temptation of being militant against some sections of the society. "Let's work to change the attitude and minds of the people of Tamale, he said, adding, "Tamale is not different from the rest of the country and so let's use decent language to promote unity among the people".

Mr Ameyibor called on the government to give tax holidays to radio stations operating in the deprived regions to enable them to stay in business.