14 December 2012

Ghana: Let's Beware of Immediacy of Radio


The refusal of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to accept the EC's declaration of President John Dramani Mahama as President-elect of the 2012 presidential election because of alleged vote tampering between the polling stations and the EC's strong room, and the party's delay in mounting its court challenge, has imposed a state of tension on the country.

This has been exacerbated by the regrettable descent into vandalism of some NDC/Mahama marked cars by some NPP supporters on the first day of their decision to demonstrate peacefully against the result of the presidential election.

There have also been reports of people being stabbed to death, because of the party leanings. These have raised the sceptre of possible reprisal attacks, based on alleged reports of what has happened, or maybe happening somewhere. Some believe this is what happened in Makola yesterday.

In this connection, radio has often been the vehicle for spreading such information. And because of the possibility of mischief-makers and evil-minded people crying wolf, where there might be none, managers, producers and presenters need to be a lot more careful than their colleagues on television and in the print media, in deciding who to grant immediate access to their airwaves. This is because their reports are heard by millions simultaneously.

It could help tremendously in these tense political situations to first record off air, people who call in to report emergency situations which have political colourings. It could be put on air if the editors preview it and find it to be innocuous. If, on the other hand, it includes portions that could inflame passions, it should be written as a news report and the dangerous parts left out. Unless published in full, not all parts of a statement are reported. The part deemed unessential are always left out.

The Chronicle is in no way trying to teach our colleagues on radio how to do their jobs. But, two heads are often better than one, especially in emergency situations.

Luckily, this is no virgin territory. The effects of unguarded utterances on radio happened live in Rwanda less than a decade ago, and led to the massacre of over a million Tutsis in cold blood by the Hutu majority.

Our elders repeatedly advise that those who want to know the nature of death should watch somebody who is asleep.

And the type of crisis situation that we are talking about is not merely far way in Rwanda. It is in our backyard, La Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia and in Sierra Leone.

We Ghanaians acclaim ourselves to be wise men and women. So a word should be enough for us!

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