Cablegate: Ghanaian Media Shape Peaceful Election

R 121129Z DEC 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


SUMMARY: Contrary to general concern that some
news outlets, especially radio, might stir
violent reactions before, during and after
Ghana's presidential elections, the local media
covered Election Day and immediate results with
professionalism and even-handedness, encouraging
a peaceful public response. Embassy Accra played
a role. END SUMMARY.

1. Radio a Cause for Joy: During the months
leading up to Ghana's presidential elections many
elements of Ghanaian society, not least of all
the media itself, were critical of the
inflammatory tone of political news coverage.
The largest complaint was reserved for radio
station call-in programs, which allowed random
and "serial" callers to make inappropriate
statements and incited angry responses. (Reftel
Accra 1510). Throughout Election Day, however,
media sources carried out their role

2. Most notably, Accra station Joy FM (full
national coverage) took the lead for all media in
presenting balanced, factual, and appropriate
news. Embassy Accra found Joy's online
tabulation of results to be reliable, and posted
more swiftly than results from the Electoral
Commission (EC). On air, Joy and other media
adamantly clarified, at every turn, the fact that
any results being announced were "provisional" or
"projected", and reminded callers, including
party officials, to attach these words to their

3. GJA Takes a Stand: Following Election Day the
two major parties called press conference after
press conference, bandying about their own
numbers and assertions of victory. The Ghana
Journalists Association (GJA) put a stop to this
by announcing a ban on further press conferences,
insisting that their elections headquarters would
no longer be available for news conferences by
any political party, thus quelling public

4. The National Media Commission (NMC) was given
prominent placement in print and on radio for
their call to the media against speculating about
the results. The NMC took pains to remind the
public, especially journalists, that the EC was
the only credible source from which results
should be taken.

5. State-owned media, represented in print by the
Daily Graphic and the Ghanaian Times, and on-air
by the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, did an
outstanding job of ensuring that each party
received equal daily coverage. When measured
against the number of votes received by the
smaller parties (between 1.4% and .08% for six of
the eight parties) this self-discipline in
providing coverage to the smaller parties is
remarkable. Some concern exists about the number
of paid advertisements and program-length
infomercials the ruling party was able to air on
state television prior to the elections; however,
the news coverage was equitable.

6. Embassy role: Embassy outreach provided some
assistance to the media for fulfilling their
mandate of responsible journalism. These include
the five workshops by U.S. freelance journalist
Herb Frazier, whose August visit trained
journalists in elections reporting in four
regions of Ghana; the October visit by U.S.
political system speakers Roslyn O'Connell and
David Lublin, whose lectures tied the U.S.
Elections process with the Ghanaian Elections
process; several Ghanaian media participants in
the Foreign Press Center elections tours to study
coverage of the U.S. elections; and a grant to
the NMC to produce Guidelines for Fair and
Equitable Coverage of Political Parties by the
State-Owned Media.

8. Two weeks before the elections, AMB convened
eight senior news editors from print, radio,
television and electronic media for a lunch and
general conversation. The most significant
discussion to arise involved the media's plans
for announcing election results. The
participants came at the discussion from
divergent views and, after much friendly
disagreement, arrived at the consensus that
regardless of how each news outlet chose to
announce results, the words "provisional" or
"projected" needed to be attached, and that the
EC was the sole authority to provide certified
results. It seemed at the time that the media
heavies had not previously discussed or openly
considered this facet of elections journalism; by
the time E-Day came around, however, it was clear
that Ghana's media had considered every aspect of
promoting a peaceful election.


© Scoop Media

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