27 February 2013

Ghana: GJA Reviews Media's Performance During Election 2012

Ambassador Kabral Blay-Amihere, Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), on Wednesday, said the media's performance in the 2012 general elections was an improvement on the previous ones.

That, he attributed to the various training programmes organized for media personnel prior to the election and commended them for their efforts.

Ambassador Blay-Amihere was speaking at a day's review meeting organised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to assess media reportage and coverage of the 2012 elections.

The meeting, which brought together GJA members, civil society organisations, regulatory institutions, political parties, media training institutions and academia, was sponsored by STAR-Ghana and facilitated by KAB Governance Consult.

It was under the theme: "Media Coverage of the 2012 Elections: Lessons for the Future," and attracted about 50 participants.

The Chairman said the Constitution of Ghana made provision for the NMC to ensure sanity in the media landscape, and like any regulatory body, the Commission had a lot of work to do, especially when there were approximately 293 radio stations currently operating in the country.

Ambassador Blay-Amihere said the Commission appreciated the roles of other associations in promoting the aspect of its mandate that touched on ensuring professional standards in the industry.

He said for any meaningful assessment, there should be clear criteria and guidelines for assessing the media, and one of such guidelines could be the media performance at the 2012 elections.

He stressed the need to provide continuous training for media personnel, to enable them be abreast with current issues, and also equip them with modern equipment to stand the trial of time.

He, therefore, commended the media for an excellent performance, even though they were not adequately equipped for the task.

Ambassador Blay-Amihere cautioned the media to be circumspect in reporting on the post-election court proceedings.

Mr. George Sarpong, Executive Secretary of the NMC, said during electioneering periods the electorate depended on the media to understand basic issues concerning the process.

He said the media could only do that if it upheld accuracy and objectivity, and urged them to always crosscheck facts before they come out with controversial stories.

"We must also guard against rumor mongering, hate speech or interpret language when covering elections," he said.

Mr. Sarpong noted that there were some imbalances in the way some regions and districts were covered, and stressed the need to spread the media tentacles in future.

He also pointed out the media's inability to frame issues properly, giving politicians a free day to operate, and urged the media to critically analyze opinion polls before coming to conclusions.

Mr. Kwesi Jonah, Research Fellow, Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), said the role of the media in multi-party democracy could not be overemphasised.

He said the media had a role to play in a multi-ethnic society like Ghana, to either integrate the society or break it apart, and stressed the need for society to consider the media as a vital tool, instead of seeing it as a separate entity.

"So, whether the media will help in building the society or separate it will depend on how the society sees it. All of us should be contributing our quota towards assisting the media more along national integration.

"Let's support the media to integrate all of us for us to get the media we deserve. We all have a role to play," he added.

Ransford Tetteh, GJA President, in a speech read for him, said although the GJA was desirous in the past to hold such review meetings, it had been always difficult to marshal the necessary funds to undertake them, and commended STAR-Ghana for the support.

He expressed the hope that the meeting would create a platform for media professionals and election stakeholders to reflect on the coverage of the last elections, with the view to drawing the relevant lessons and identifying the necessary interventions for media capacity development, as well as future elections coverage.

Mr. Bright Blewu, Secretary General of the GJA, said the welfare and security of journalists covering elections should be the collective responsibility of both media managers and the public.

The general consensus among participants indicated that the media performed excellently before, during, and after the 2012 elections.

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