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Journalists on duty at a function
Journalists on duty at a function

What Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh said about media, elections and safety of journalists

“The only limitation to our freedom is the truth.

We are allowed to publish everything we write, but we are forbidden to lie.

A journalist's lie is not only a sin against the principles of our profession.

It is also a blasphemy against our God.

 A lie always leads to enslavement. Only the truth has liberating power. — ADAM MICHNICK

The French philosopher Alexis de Tocquville has noted that, "the press causes political life to circulate through all parts of that vast territory.

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Its eye is constantly open to detect the secret springs of political designs and to summon the leaders of all parties in turn to the bar of public opinion. 

It rallies the interests of the community round certain principles and draws up the creed of every party; for it affords a means of intercourse between those who hear and address each other without ever coming into immediate contact."

Chinua Achebe sees the media and journalists as more significant and impactful on society.

He gives them a pride of place. 

Achebe celebrates them thus, " to some of us, the owner of the world has apportioned the gift to tell their fellows that the time to get up has finally come.

 To others, he gives the eagerness to rise when they hear the call to rise with racing blood and put on their garbs of war and go to the boundary of their town to engage the invading enemy boldly in battle.

And then, there are those whose part is to wait and when the struggle is ended to take over and recount the story. 

The sounding of the battle drum is important, the fierce waging of the war itself is important, and the telling of the story afterwards; each is not one of them we could do without.

But if you ask me which of them takes the Eagle feather, I will boldly say the story,...

" .....,..It is the story, not the others, that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence.

 The story is our escort, without it, we are blind.

Does the blind man own his escort?

No, neither do we the story.

 It is rather the story that owns us and directs us.

 It is the thing that makes us different from cattle.

 It is the mark on the face that sets one person apart from their neighbours."

Politically partisan interests

Accordingly, as we traverse the year of intense political campaigns towards elections 2024, and eventually December 7, an epoch, to confirm or expose the "myth" about the cycle of two terms or eight years, we must not allow ourselves to be misused by politically partisan interests to undermine our sense of professionalism.

Therefore, in analysing any procedure introduced by the Electoral Commission in electoral reforms, we must look at the greater national public interest rather than the fanatical partisan position.

For instance, in the matters of polls closing at 3 pm, not using indelible ink, shifting the date from December 7 to any other day, all do not favour one party and we should be more open since they affect all Ghanaian voters equally.

We are people who like to wait and act at the last minute.

We have no respect for time as punctuality is thrown to the dogs.

Closing voting at 3 pm, could thus have a dysfunctional impact on turnout. 

Again, with our record of accusations of political parties luring minors to register and vote, cheating through multiple voting cannot be ruled out without the indelible ink being applied after voting.

Constitutional amendment

On the issue raised by adherents of the SDA Church about the Sabbath and voting on a Saturday apart from scripture quoting Jesus Christ, as having said that man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath was made for man, Ghana is a secular country and there have been instances that the courts have ruled against the church that their children at the universities must not be made to write examinations on Saturdays.

It is also true that the more people enabled to exercise the franchise, the more valid the election results provided the exercise is free, open, transparent, peaceful, and fair.

That does not favour any party.

Beyond that, Parliament is the only body that can amend the constitution for the change about Parliamentary elections, which must take place not more than 31 days to the assumption of office of the new parliament.

If it were just presidential polls, no legality would arise, except for moral reasons and the possibility of the presidential poll influencing the parliamentary elections if they are not held together.

Again, no party will be disadvantaged.

So, if the politicians decide to go fishing in the forest and leave the water bodies behind, the journalists must not get themselves embroiled or enmeshed in any propaganda scheme.

We must not resonate it without analysis or examination.

 It is even worse on radio or television where hosts pass egregious and baseless commentary as opinions, even where the facts are clear.

That then leads me to issues of deep fake and fake news, misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation.

Since others with academic credentials have been engaged to deal with the issues, I would not dare to define or evaluate the concepts. 

In an era when even the US was on the neck of Russia for interfering with its elections due to technology, and where the platform owners do not care what happens in Africa, we have an obligation to fact check every information or data, especially if coming from politicians and political actors. 

The writer is the Chairman of the National Media Commission

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