The Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has called for a concerted national effort to tackle fake news head-on as it has the potential to undermine press freedom and the country’s democratic dispensation.
He said the unfortunate churning out of fake news had worsened to the point where some mainstream media houses had resorted to publishing some of the stories that had been “flying on fake news platforms.”
“Fake news continues to be a major debacle creeping into the media space particularly in a time where any news can go viral and mislead consumers,” he stated.
In a meeting with the national executive of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in his office in Accra yesterday, Mr Oppong Nkrumah said, “We may not be in a situation where fake news is alarming today but we must confront it now.”
The executive, led by the President of the association, Mr Affail Monney, was with the minister to congratulate him on his appointment as the substantive Minister of Information, as well as to formally invite him to the celebration of the association’s 70th anniversary this year.
The meeting was also used to reflect on the recent murder of Ahmed Hussein-Suale, a team member of the Tiger Eye PI, last Wednesday.
Mr Oppong Nkrumah said it was time stakeholders such as the government, the National Media Commission (NMC) and the GJA tackled fake news before it could “get out of hand” and threaten the credibility of mainstream media professionals in the country.
He also expressed worry over the manner in which opinion journalism was also aiding the spread of unobjective and biased information to consumers of news.
“We must begin to examine opinion journalism a bit more and what sort of rubrics we all want to put in place so that the consumer at any point in time knows what the facts and opinions are and in consuming the news, is guided accordingly,” he said.
Touching on the safety of journalists, the minister said his outfit had already been working with the GJA on developing what he termed “a national coordinating mechanism on the safety of journalists.”
The initiative, which he said would be completed in the first quarter of the year, “would allow the government, GJA, security agencies and civil society organisations to exchange information for our mutual benefit,” he said.
He lamented that though the GJA had been at the forefront in the fight to promote democratic rule in Ghana, many reporters remained non members of the GJA.
He, therefore, expressed the government’s readiness to support the GJA to address some of the numerous challenges facing it in order to make it more attractive to every journalist to join it just like other recognised professions.
“Specifically this year, the government, among other things, will want to assist in capacity enhancement of media practitioners to allow journalists to improve on their capacity and address major pitfalls in the media landscape.
“We have already engaged with the GJA, Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), the National Media Commission (NMC) to develop the programme prior to the end of the first half of 2019 and it will provide scholarships for practising journalists to deepen their capacity in their fields of operation,” he added.
For his part, Mr Monney said the killing of the Tiger Eye PI journalist was an attack on all journalists in Ghana and urged the government to ensure speedy investigation into the matter.