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General News Sat, 20 Jul 2013

Rawlings whips media for raising political temperature

Former President Jerry John Rawlings has asked the media to revise their approach to reporting electoral disputes and be guided by the principle that their agenda-setting role should always protect the national interest.

He observed that reporting electoral disputes ought not to be “tarnished by the petty, biased and parochial political agenda some of them pursue”.

Addressing a national peace summit in Accra on Friday, the former President accused the media of not helping to objectively disseminate news about the on-going judicial process, but have contributed to unduly raising the political temperature.

He said for the nation to achieve an incident-free post court-ruling scenario, the full support of the media was needed.

“Many people now have access to various social media forums, so the admonishment was not only for mainstream media but to all those who have taken it upon themselves to abuse their freedoms in chat rooms by pursuing a vitriolic political agenda that has the capacity to negatively influence unsuspecting users of such forums”.

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“Hiding behind the Internet to pursue a dirty political agenda is cowardly. And this is no less cowardly than those journalists who boldly fabricate stories as a way of protecting their paymasters,” Mr Rawlings cautioned.

The summit, which was on the theme: "Justice, Peace and Reforms will strengthen Ghana" was intended to sensitise the nation on the need to live in peace after the judgment is delivered on the election petition as well as strengthen democracy and political development in the country.

The Supreme Court has scheduled July 30 for all parties in the election petition to file their addresses after the “battle” of evidence hearing ended Wednesday, July 17.

The court resumes sitting on July 31 where it is expected to give further directions. Judgment is expected to be delivered within 15 days after all directions have been complied with.

'Boomless' speech

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In a jovial manner, Former President Rawlings asked the audience not to expect any "boom" since his address was not off-the-cuff.

He observed Ghanaians have been witnesses to the fascinating spectacle of the electoral process being placed under judicial scrutiny over the past few months.

As we inch closer to the conclusion of the process there are natural concerns that the high-adrenalin that characterises our political competitiveness and discourse may spill over when a verdict is finally given, he noted.

“Allow me to commend our Supreme Court justices for their composure and moderating influence throughout the hearing process. Their performance so far, under the scrutiny of television cameras, is worthy of mention”.

He recalled that, at a similar forum in November 2012 ahead of the elections, he counseled the political leadership to give proper direction and guidance to their supporters across the country, to desist from acts of reckless impunity.

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“Today, I can only reiterate that our political parties, especially the two who are opposing each other in the law courts, have a patriotic responsibility to protect the sanctity of our democratic process by properly educating their supporters on the role of the judiciary and the fact that decisions may not automatically go in favour of their party”.

Mr Rawlings said the weakness when it comes to politicking was the impression political leadership often creates that their individual party has to win at all costs and failure to win means something untoward may have taken place.

“We cannot allow such attitudes to affect supporters’ perceptions in the run up to the Supreme Court ruling… Let us not relegate the responsibility to a select few. We can all play our part within our communities and circles of family, friends and associates”.

He noted the response to the ruling will indicate the maturity of people and how the political process has evolved.

“We cannot afford to fail this test. We will of course also expect our judiciary to deliver a ruling that will inspire the confidence of both the winners and losers and further go to strengthen and protect our political process, national cohesion and self –belief”.

The Former President noted, “there were serious battles ahead of us - corruption, economic battles, the burning down of our markets and crime. Let us get this one out of the way and take on the others. We need to move on.”

Source: Daily Graphic