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Executive Director of the Africa Centre for International Law and Accountability (ACILA), William Nyarko has cautioned journalists to take extra care in the line of duty this political season.
Speaking at a workshop organised by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) for journalists based in the southern zone of Ghana, Mr Nyarko said, “When you are going to party headquarters for interview, take precaution. Don’t take [sic] it to chance. People don’t understand that your job is to report and that what you have to write doesn’t have to be something they like.”
He advised them to exercise extreme caution when investigating political issues, urging them to “be cautious and mindful” when dealing with political and electoral issues.
This caution comes in the wake of several attacks perpetrated against Ghanaian journalists over the last few years in the line of duty. These include the attack on Afia Pokua of Adom FM at the NPP headquarters by one Hadjia Fati; the assault of Kwesi Parker-Wilson of Joy News at an NDC event; and the killing of Ahmed Hussein Suale by unknown perpetrators.
Political Communication lecturer, Dr Etse Sikanku advised media houses to have an election reporting protocol.
According to him, “This protocol should have within it, a peace or conflict-sensitive reportage. It will then show who does what, who reports to whom, what are the various routines and the various chains of command that you have to pass through before putting out what kind of information.”
When this is done, he explained, “we engender trust in the society through accurate and objective reportage of the electoral process, the candidates and platforms.”
He advocated for the training of election reporters, which absence, he said, “results in incompetent reportage, which normally leads to chaos in society. It leads to untruth, a lot of biases, and that is what flares up and gets people’s blood boiling.”
He advised the media men to shy away from identity politics as “any media reportage that focuses on identities is a sure way of dividing people. He rather advised them to focus on rigorous journalism “since rigorous journalism is one of the ways to avoid conflict.” Dean of the School of Information and Communication, Professor Audrey Gadzekpo advised the reporters to provide a fair and accurate platform for the expression of divergent views. She said, “As journalists, we need to remain non-partisan. If you provide the platform to all candidates and stakeholders, then you are getting closer to the standards.”
She, however, admonished them to not renege on their gatekeeping role in their reportage by failing “to sift the chaff from the corn.’
She also urged the media to not just give voice to the elite members of the political space, but also turn attention to the electorates in the lead-up to the December elections.
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