State Media Reiterate Commitment To Fairness

BY: Francis K. Osabutey

The state-owned media have reiterated their commitment to peace, free and fair election coverage before and during the 2012 polls.

They are the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, Ghanaian Times and the Ghana News Agency.

The state-owned media made the pledge in separate presentations of their plans for Election 2012 at a workshop for them and representatives of political parties at Elmina in the Central Region Saturday.

The workshop, which was organised by the National Media Commission, was on the theme: “Ensuring free, fair and peaceful election 2012 - the role and responsibility of the state owned media.”

Strangely, only four political party representatives attended the high-profiled media event, although, according to the NMC, all the registered political parties were invited. The parties that attended were the Convention People’s Party, the Progressive People’s Party, New Patriotic Party and the People’s National Convention. The ruling party, the National Democratic Congress and the other parties were absent.

In his presentation, the Managing Director of the GCGL, Mr Kenneth Ashigbey, recalled the company’s healthy record of openness in the coverage of elections, saying this was rooted in the companies “Journalistic Policy Guide, Standards Practices” which provided that “the Graphic’s coverage of all elections is guided by the principles of being an independent, non-partisan, non-sectarian, public interest media organisation.”

He said it was the company’s responsibility to protect, promote and help strengthen democracy and culture of democratic governance, hence under “GCGL Project 2012,” the company was in discussions with the political parties on the coverage of the electoral process.

He disclosed that to ensure an issue-based campaign and deepen multi-party democracy, the GCGL was collaborating with the national executives of the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association and had met with the management of TV3, Metro TV and TV Africa on how to cooperate to ensure effective coverage of the elections.

He further disclosed that the GCGL had also met with GBC in particular to consider the possibility of organising a joint presidential debate for presidential candidates who would not benefit from the Institute of Economic Affairs Programme.

He said the company had also discussed coverage of encounters with the political parties and town hall meetings with the managers of the electronic media.

The Director General of the GBC, Mr Berifi Apenteng, who shared his corporations’s perspective, said they had set up a Political Broadcast Committee which had also come out with a Political Broadcast Policy.

The intention, he said, was to look at news coverage, presentation, how it should be handled and what time should be given to each political party activity to ensure fairness.

The key challenges facing the corporation, he indicated, were building professional capacity among its staff.

He said the issue of logistical constraints was a bane in their effort to offer equal coverage to the parties and they were equally not happy with how the political parties took advantage of the medium.

On the issue of incumbency, though it was difficult to manage, Mr apenteng gave the assurance that the corporation was finding innovative ways to address the problem.

The Managing Director of the New Times corporation, Mr Kofi Essuman, mentioned accuracy, fairness, objectivity, truth, honesty, balance and equality as the company’s core values.

He said it was their cardinal goal to provide equal and fair coverage to all political parties but observed with regret that political parties were yet to take full advantage.

He challenged the political parties to share their programmes with the media, particularly the Ghanaian Times, saying “We have nice men and women to serve you.”

The Supervising Editor of the GNA, Mr Mawusi Afele, said the agency was building the capacities of their reporters for unbiased truthful news.

He said this had become imperative, because political reporters must be mindful even of the words they use in political coverage.

The Chairman of PPP, Nii Allotey Brew-Hammond and the Communications Director of the CPP, Nii Armah Akomfrah commended the state media for their commitment to fair political coverage.

However, Nii Akomfrah complained of issues of incumbency abuse and cited President John Dramani Mahama’s recent “thank you tour” which in the opinion of the CPP involved pure political campaign activities.

“We need to find a way to address the imbalance in political coverage regarding the ruling party and the opposition parties,” he enjoined the state media.

Nii Brew-Hammond called on the state media to do more analysis to help the Ghanaian electorate make informed decisions and choices, towards the 2012 polls.

Mr Yaw Buabeng Asamaoh, the deputy Communication Director of the NPP, charged practitioners in the state media to set high standards, and take the lead role in reporting not only elections but governance matters.

“Anything less, will set a tone for impunity and hate speech will flourish,” he told the gathering.

Mr Emmanuel Wilson, National Youth Organiser and Mr Atik Mohammed, Policy Analyst, all of the PNC called for effective collaboration between the state owned media and political parties to ensure free and fair elections.

Written by Grace & Becky