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22.08.2004 General News

Journalists to be weary of political manipulations

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Takoradi, Aug 22, GNA - Dr Anthony Bonna Koomson, a lecturer at the School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, at the weekend asked Journalists not to allow themselves to be manipulated by politicians to achieve their personal ends.

He observed that some politicians disseminate campaign messages to the public through the media without verifying the truth and advised journalists to cross check their facts in order not to misinform the public.

Dr Koomson was speaking on the topics "Evaluation of Election 2000 Coverage" and "Access to the Media and Ethics in Election Reporting: Challenges of the Media", at a one-day roundtable discussion on "the media and the elections" in Takoradi.

It was jointly organised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the French Embassy in Ghana.

The participants were drawn from the various media houses, political parties and civil organisations.

Dr Koomson urged the media to be guided by high sense of accuracy, impartiality and responsibility, adding, "whatever is published or broadcast by the media must be without malice".

He noted that the media is indispensable in deepening the country's democracy.

Dr Koomson said a study by the GJA and the National Media Commissioned showed that news coverage before the 2000 General Elections was in favour of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) because it was in power.

He said the Party used state resources unfairly and had more access to the state owned media than other political parties. Dr Koomson said the pattern of reportage changed immediately after the New Patriotic Party was declared the winner of the 2000 General Election.

He said the study revealed that the media had always supported the party in power but stressed that although journalists have every right to join any political party, they must be non-partisan in their reportage.

Mr Iddrisu Siddiq, Public Affairs and Information Officer of the UNDP, said the roundtable discussion was the second in the series after the one in Accra.

He said similar forums would be organised in Kumasi and Tamale to ensure that as many Ghanaian Journalists as possible, were sensitised about the need to promote peace and national cohesiveness before, during and after the 2004 Elections.

Mr Siddiq said the French Embassy, UNDP and the GJA appreciates the importance of newspapers, radio and television as vehicles for ensuring impartiality, objectivity and moderation during an election period. He said messages from the media could mar or sustain the peaceful atmosphere that has characterised Ghanaian politics he noted.

Mr Siddiq said: "We, therefore, urge the media to do all that is required to propagate messages that could sustain Ghana's stability and cohesion".

Mr Bright Blewu, General Secretary of the GJA, called on journalists, to abide strictly by the ethics of their profession and exhibit professionalism in their work.

He said an election year demands more courage, objectivity, fairness and balanced reportage and "above all, upholding and defending the truth ".

Mr Blewu said the electioneering campaign incites emotions, and journalists must guard against inflaming passions.

Most Reverend Martin Darko, Catholic Bishop of Sekondi-Takoradi Diocese, said unpatriotic politicians should withdraw from the public domain.

He said: "Any politician who uses abusive words and uses lies for the sake of seeking power is wicked and such a person should be disciplined if he himself will not withdraw".

Mr Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafo, Editor of the Daily Graphic, said phone-in programmes should not be banned as people have the right to express their views under the country's democratic dispensation.

He said solutions should be found to problems associated with the programme to enable the public to derive maximum benefits from discussions on topical issues. 22 Aug 04

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