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25.08.2004 General News

Media asked to use power to sustain democracy

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Koforidua, Aug. 25, GNA - A Deputy Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Mr Kwadwo Safo Kantanka has called on media practitioners to use their power judiciously to sustain the country's fledgling democracy "since no one wants to live under a dictatorship anymore".

He noted that, even though, there had been marked improvement in the standard of media output since the 1992 Elections, there was still the need for the practitioners to strive to advance their professional competence in electoral reportage whether in the public or private sector.

Mr Safo Kantanka was speaking at a two-day seminar on Electoral Reporting for media practitioners drawn from the Eastern and Volta Regions at Koforidua on Monday.

The National Media Commission (NMC); Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and the Electoral Commission jointly organised the seminar while the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) sponsored it. It had the theme:

"Fair and Objective Reportage for 2004 Electioneering Process." Mr Safo Kantanka said since the EC regarded the Media as partners, it was always prepared to open its doors to them so that they could be conversant with the electoral laws and process to be able to report authoritatively to avoid any distortions, which could throw the elections into chaos.

He said since the seven-member Electoral Commission could not be at all the 21,000 polling stations in the country on the polling day, the EC considered the media as "our eyes and ears" on the polling day's processes.

The Editor of the "Daily Graphic", Mr Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafo, reminded Media practitioners that they could help deepen the democratic dispensation by criticizing constructively and publishing accurate, fair and objective reports.

He called on radio presenters to be conversant with the NMC guidelines by exhibiting a high sense of objectivity and humility towards their listeners in line with the "social contract" between them. On recent calls by some section of the public for a ban on radio phone-ins, Mr Boadu-Ayeboafo said, even though, the calls had no constitutional basis, it was incumbent on the presenters to be in control of their programmes by being knowledgeable on topics under discussion to be able to correct errors by callers.

He said it was not enough for presenters to cut off callers, who maligned others, but ask them to apologise to those whose reputations had been injured.

He asked Journalists not to "motivate people to commit crimes by our coverage of criminal acts or utterances". Journalists should be conversant with the laws of the country and the ethics of the profession.

The Deputy Executive Secretary of the NMC, Mr Alex Bannerman asked the Media to be circumspect in their reportage of the electioneering campaign by not amplifying the bad language of politicians to create tension and hatred.

They should also check against sensational headlines unrelated to the content of their stories and ensure that they reported only authentic polling results to avoid confusion likely to affect the fairness and integrity of the elections.

Mr Bannerman urged Journalists to undertake painstaking research into their stories in order to update their information so that the electorate could depend on it to make informed choices on the polling day.

The Programmes Co-ordinator of the FES, Mr Samuel Opoku-Agyakwa, urged the Media to let their reportage on the electoral process aim at promoting national cohesion, avoid publishing inflammatory utterances of politicians and to minimise the content of their reportage which suggested that they were being done with the profit motives. 23 Aug. 04

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