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05.11.2004 Regional News

Irresponsible media, a threat to national security- Journalists

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Accra, Nov.5 GNA- Journalists at a workshop on Ensuring Mutual Tolerance and Amity in Accra, on Friday threw the searchlight on the threat to national integration, through the whipping of ethnic sentiments and xenophobia by a section of the media.

Two Liberian journalists, Mr Jos Garneo Cephas and Mr. Wellington Heevon- Smith who took part at the two-day workshop, asked the Ghanaian media to be circumspect about reports that promoted social tension. Mr Cephas, who works with the "The Daily Guide", an Accra daily and Mr Heevon-Smith of the Media Foundation of West Africa, stressed the need for Ghanaians to cherish the peace and stability that had ensured a safe haven for the over 42,000 Liberians refugees.

"We are coming from a war-torn country and we are careful when we are reporting on ethnic issues."

The two-day workshop is being organised by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and the French Embassy in Ghana. Mr Kwabena Adjepong, Press Secretary to the President, observed that some newspapers were deliberately creating religious and social tensions in the country, adding: " Some of the reports are mischievous and not based on facts."

Mr Adjepong tasked journalists to ensure highly ethical standards in their profession by striving to be objective, factual and balance in their reportage.

He said consensus building was a critical part of democratic governance, stressing: Ghanaians should learn to celebrate the beauty of diversity and live in harmony".

Mr Adjepong said the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law by the Government was to encourage dialogue on national issues. He said without a vibrant media there was the tendency that government could violate the human rights of the citizenry. "Lack of transparency, free and fair and all encompassing democratic system were the causes of conflicts in Africa."

Mr Adjepong asked the media to continue to play their vanguard role to expose such oppressive regimes.

Mr Alfonso Artico, a Belgian veteran war Correspondent who is the main Facilitator at the workshop, warned that if Ghanaian journalists failed to educate the people on the causes of war, the country could be on the verge of conflict.

"Each word of hate, each mistake on radio, builds war and when the war is finished, it is too late."

Mr Kwesi Pratt (Junior), the Managing Editor of the "Daily Insight", charged the media to identify the causes of poverty and deprivation that gave rise to ethnic hatred and xenophobia. "As more people suffer deprivation and poverty, the madmen arise as warlords to take advantage of the situation."

Mr A.O. Akiwumi, the Chairman of Ghana Refugee Board, expressed the need for the media to expose the citizenry to the legal framework that protect refugees.

He said the laws of Ghana, for instance allowed refugees to work in the country.

Mr Thomas Albrecht, the UNHCR Representative in Ghana spoke against the negative media reports about refugees and challenged journalists to also focus on the positive side to the news and how to prevent the creation of conflicts that force people to migrate.

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