Election Petition: 72 per cent trust in Supreme Court
A study on print media reportage of the 2012 election petition shows that there is 72 per cent trust and confidence in the Supreme Court to handle the case fairly.
The study, conducted by the Center for Media Analysis (CMA), an independent media research organisation, also found that the media largely avoided the use of sensational headlines.
The study, conducted between April 16, 2013 and June 27 2013, analysed the content of 1,608 stories from 11,577 newspaper editions in Ghana.
Sponsored by the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), with support from the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and other media partners, the study also found that while only 19 per cent of the respondents attempted to sensitise Ghanaians to the case, 37 per cent of the stories researched were partisan.
Presenting the report of the study at a media and democracy forum in Accra on Tuesday, Dr Messan Mawugbe, Managing Consultant of CMA, said while there was nothing wrong with media aligning themselves to political parties, it was wrong for facts to be twisted to favour a particular political party.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) on December 28, 2012 filed a petition at the Supreme Court challenging the result of the December 7 and 8 presidential elections.
From April 16, 2013 to July 17, 2013 Ghanaians were introduced to legal jargons, general courtroom procedure, objections and counter-objections and numerous rulings; thanks to the live telecast of the presidential election petition seeking to annul the 2012 presidential election.
That notwithstanding, Dr Mawugbe said the media failed to clarify the legal terminologies during the reportage as the study found that 98 per cent of the stories did not explain the notable terminologies, including pink sheet, affidavit, exhibits and amicus curiae.
Other major findings of the research include low levels of media, petitioners and respondents pre-judgment of the case and the lack of background to stories (98 per cent). In this area, the Daily Graphic, the New Statesman, and the Daily Searchlight were among the top 10 newspapers that provided background to stories.
“The media is not pre-judging the case at all. If the media had been prejudging the case, it could have become a watershed for an energy release, which would be a threat to the nation,” he said.
The media, he stated, was a conduit for the release of energy that cut across social, political and economic spheres. A high energy surge, he added, had the tendency to derail the country’s peace and stability.
With the media described by critics as polarised, one of the concerns of Ghanaians is the role the media can play in inflaming passions which can lead to violence.
But the study found that 87 per cent of the stories did not create anxiety, as against 13 per cent that did.
Dr Mawugbe, however, warned that the partisan nature of some of the reportage created anxiety. He acknowledged the fact that the low levels of anxiety-inducing stories had contributed largely to the peace the country was enjoying. Dr Mawugbe also said the outcome of the research could serve as a point of reference to meet the capacity building needs of the media.
Among other things, the study recommended that the media simplify terminologies and increase their sensitisation drive to make Ghanaians conscious of the need to maintain the peace in the country.
While commending the CMA for its good work, some media personnel criticised the study for limiting its scope to only print journalism and ignoring the electronic and social media.
The CMA was also urged to conduct an audience research to serve as a comparative study to its current one.
A deputy Minister of Information and Media Relations, Mr Felix Ofosu Kwakye, commended the CMA for conducting the research, adding that such ventures were necessary to guide the media to deliver their mandate without compromising standards.
The General Secretary of the GJA, Mr David Agbenu, said the GJA would continue to uphold the cardinal principles of journalism and not give vent to people who would inflame passions.
Mr Agbenu, who is also the Editor of the Ghanaian Times, urged journalists to be mindful of the consequences of their reportage.
The Director-General in charge of Public Affairs of the Ghana Police Service, DCOP David Ampah-Bennin, contributing to the discussions, said the police were prepared to deal with excesses of the elections.
“We will do our best to protect the media and public at large,” he added.