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10.08.2004 General News

Elections'04 - Test of Ghana's Democracy - German Ambassador

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Accra, Aug. 10, GNA - The German Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Peter Linder on Tuesday described Election 2004 as a test case for Ghana's democratic growth and development.

"In 2000, Ghana proved that democracy functions in this country, when for the first time a change of government was brought about by the ballot box instead of the power of the gun and violence."

Mr Linder, who was speaking at a ceremony in Accra where he presented media monitoring equipment valued at 20,000 Euros to the National Media Commission (NMC), said the election also offered all political forces the chance to inform the electorate about their respective programmes, goals and policies in a fair and open process.

The equipment included; four television sets; six computers and accessories; monitoring radio; video deck; earphones; portable tape recorders and cassettes; vesper motorbike and photocopier.

Mr Linder commended the NMC for its systematic and analytical observation of Election 2000, saying that the tasked performed at that time would probably be the same for this years campaign, adding that the NMC was expected to draw inspiration from its past.

Mr John Mahama, former Minister of Information, in a remark, noted the critical role the NMC played in the enhancement of multi-party democracy, "you cannot have a free democratic state without a free and independent media," he said

He said it was quite refreshing to note that the NMC was now equipped to perform its monitoring role, which it relinquished in the past to other bodies with questionable credentials.

Mr Mahama who is also the National Democratic Congress' (NDC) Director of Communications, called for the setting down of ground rules for the free, balance and equal assess to the media especially the state owned ones.

"As political parties come into government and out of government, politicians must accept to face the rules they set either as opposition members of Parliament or ruling parties.

"Now I see the Information Minister struggling to put up the same argument I used to advance during my tenure about the over-coverage of the Presidency by the state media to the detriment of opposition parties' Presidential Nominees," he emphasised.

The NDC Director of Communication alleged that the President and the Vice President had unofficially started their campaign as state functions were mingled with party officials and colours.

Government party needs to be covered, but there must be ground rules for balance reportage to ensure that the opposition parties received fair coverage of its activities.

Mr Mahama pledged NDC's determination to ensure the sustenance of multi-party democracy.

Mr George Mac Badji, the Executive Secretary of the NMC, in a poetic rendition, expressed the Commission's profound gratitude to the Government of Ghana for allocating "a place in the sun" to be developed into an office complex.

The NMC is developing its office complex with facilities such as boardroom, committee meeting rooms and monitoring and complaint room, which is estimated to cost about three billion cedis.

Mr Badji said: "I also put on record NMC's deepest appreciation to the Government and people of Germany and indeed to the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung for their generous donation of equipment, which would enable the Commission to discharge its mandate more effectively.

"For us at the Commission, this marks the dawn of a new day - a refreshing departure from those frustrating years when practically nothing could be done by way of media monitoring except during election time. I am therefore forcefully reminded that the first giant strides that led to this day got taken more than a decade ago," he said.

Mr Badji said with the new equipment the NMC would now expand its monitoring role to cover all the regions, "we would now have our ears and eyes on the ground; with complaint desks in all the regions."

He said the NMC couldn't operate satisfactorily without collaborating with all players and stakeholders saying: "We will be coming to you; not with cup in hand to beg for sustenance but to request for sponsorship of programmes that will sanitize our media and foster the peace that will guarantee the concentration you need for your work." The NMC Executive Secretary also commended the political parties for adopting a code of conduct for their operations but reminded them that the quality of a person's life was in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence regardless of his or her chosen field of endeavour either in politics or elsewhere.

"We expect from you, not only verbal commitment but commitment in deed; action to back the words. There is no way to be fully human alone even as a politician, we need each other to laugh, to cry, to listen, to challenge, to encourage and even to criticise," he said.

"There is only one thing we know for sure about conflict, it is inevitable, but conflict need not always be negative, like the different notes on a piano keyboard, the differences can produce perfect harmony with very little conscious effort."

Mr Badji said "strong politicians make as many and ghastly mistake as weak ones do, but the difference is that the strong admit them laugh over them, learn from then and move on".

"My own little observation is that politicians in this country have too little to laugh about and it is not good for your health," he said.

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