16 November 2012

Ghana: When Newsmen Are Barred From Early Voting


The Electoral Commission appears to have compromised the credibility of the 2012 Presidential and legislative Elections by its strange decision to exclude journalists from the early voting programme.

Since the return to democratic rule in 1992, newsmen have been part of officers, including the security services, who take part in the early voting process in order to release them to report on the voting process all over the country.

As it is, the Electoral Commission is opening the floodgates for malpractices, with offenders knowing that journalists would join long queues across the country and would not be able to report on their nefarious activities.

The concept of free and fair election is not only about ensuring that the number of ballot papers in the box correspond to what have been put in. It takes on board all processes, including information on all aspects of the ballot.

Over the years, journalists have been included in the early voting process to free them to cover the voting process effectively. By this strange decision to exclude newsmen in the early voting, the Electoral Commission is announcing to the world that newsmen should not play their normal roles in this election.

In Accra and other cities across the country, it takes quite a while to queue before getting the opportunity to cast the vote. If newsmen were to vote on the same day as all Ghanaians, before reaching their assigned locations to cover the vote, it would mean that they would not be able to do a good job.

Readers, listeners and viewers are, therefore, to note that if the coverage of the election is shoddy, they should know where the blame should lie.

Our understanding is that the Electoral Commission failed to capture the role of newsmen in the early voting process in the Legislative Instrument which was sent to Parliament House and has been passed by Honourable Members.

We are of the view that the commission could work out a mechanism to remedy the situation. The whole country depends on journalists to capture the various aspects of the electoral process to all Ghanaian.

If journalists are to vote on the day of the exercise, it would be a very tall order to require them to report to their various locations for election coverage on time, to do a good and honest job.

Our information is that Mr. Bright Blewu, General Secretary of the Ghana Journalists Association has expressed concern on behalf of members in interviews with various media houses.

The Chronicle would like to believe that there is still time to remedy the situation. While we are at it, The Chronicle has on its front page today, pictures of children who are captured on the Biometric Register and are, therefore, able to cast their vote on December 7.

We are told that the Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, is himself bemused by the circumstances under which these toddlers were captured to be involved in such a major exercise.

The law requires only Ghanaians above 18, to be captured for the exercise. The large number of children in the register will put a lot of strain on electoral officers to restrain them from being part of the exercise.

It is not the best statement to make, but The Chronicle is getting the impression that the 2012 Presidential and Legislative elections would present more challenges than ever envisaged.

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