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Ghana: Going forward to 2016 elections

The media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has intensified its advocacy to ensure that political campaigns before, during and after the upcoming general elections is devoid of filthy language.

The Foundation’s intention became manifest on Wednesday when it organised a National public forum on the topic, Media Hate Speech and Peaceful Elections.

MFWAThe forum formed part of a project, christened, “Issues not Insults’ is meant to promote decent language and issues- based campaigning for peaceful election ahead of November 7.
The initiative tracks the use of abusive campaign language on selected radio stations across the country. The project also monitors how moderators and show hosts of the target stations handle their programmes.

It further names and shames politicians who use abusive language and radio stations; and presenters who allow their platforms to be used to abuse others. The project is being implemented with funding support from OSIWA, STAR-Ghana.

The forum, deliberated on emerging issues regarding media professionalism, political party communication and the role of the media in contributing to peaceful election.
It also looked at some recommendations for tackling the challenges of abusive campaign language. It featured both local and international speakers.

The forum brought both local and international speakers including, Mr Kabral Blay-Amihere, Former Chairman of Ghana’s National Media Commission, Akua Gyekye, Facebook’s Public Policy Director for Africa, Emmanuel Mugisha, Executive Secretary of Rwanda Media Commission and

It also brought together political party representatives, election experts, academia, civil society government representatives as well as members of the diplomatic corps.
In his introductory remarks at the forum, the Executive Director of MFWA, Mr Sulemana Braimah, lamented how indecent language has plunged some African countries into civil war resulting in the death of thousands innocent souls.

“Elsewhere in Africa, hate speech and unprofessional media conduct during elections have resulted in electoral violence. This is what the MFWA seeks to prevent. This forum is thus, an important event for sharing perspectives on the issue of hate speech and unprofessionalism in the media” Mr Braimah submitted.

Addressing the forum, Mr Kabral Blay-Amihere, Former Chairman of the NMC ,said media literacy could help the situation in Ghana.

Mr Blay –Amihere stated , “I also say there is the need for media literacy. I think we need to do that among the media for them to understand [that it is] the constitution that gives them all the freedom and, sometimes, we don’t listen as a people; when we are warned we ignore, so, we need to engage ourselves, we need to respect the freedom and rights of others”.

He added, “I find it amazing that because of politics, young men will look at some of our political leaders and insult them, so, the crossroads has been reached …I spent 25 years in the media and I was quite a critical person, but I was careful, I was respectful and that is why I’m here today and I pray that the younger generation will not abuse the powers that they enjoy when they pick the microphone or their pens.”

He said attributed the cause of hate speech to the ownership of media houses by politicians.

He opined that the ownership of media houses in Ghana is shrouded in secrecy to the extent that one will find it difficult to believe when these personalities behind the media houses are unveiled.

He said most of the unpalatable words being witnessed on the airwaves are as a result of lack of policy and standards in the media.

The Former Chairman indicated, “First of all there is no transparency so they just allocate the frequencies and most of them are political owners who set up the radio station for a single purpose. If you look at some of the people who have been given frequencies, you will wonder when they saw the press as a medium for business. So, this is where we are today. Political ownership is the cause of most of the problems.”

By Mohammed Suleman

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