Superintendent of Police, Mr Kwabena Otuo Acheampong, has called on journalists to respect security protocols and engage security personnel to manage sensitive security issues during elections.
Mr Acheampong who is the Northern Regional Police Crime Officer noted that there was a thin line between safety and security, especially on issues connected to elections and there was the need for journalists to weigh their reports against public Safety and Security.
The Regional Crime Officer made the call at a day’s forum for selected editors in the Northern region, organised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), with funding support from Star Ghana Foundation.
The forum was to share ideas on Conflict Sensitive Reporting and hot spots ahead of the 2020 election under the GJA Election 2020 Project dubbed: “No to Political Vigilantism and Electoral Violence in Ghana”.
The GJA’s 14-month project with support from STAR-Ghana Foundation aims at contributing to the national discourse on disbanding political vigilantism and eliminating electoral violence in Ghana.
It also seeks to enhance the capacity of media in conflict sensitive reporting, considering its crucial role as one of the key gatekeepers in election management and reportage in Ghana.
Mr Acheampong explained that the processes of the election, security maintenance, and media reporting were inseparable and the most significant in ensuring peace in the election, and the role of the media in reporting security issues was therefore crucial and could not be over emphasized.
He reminded journalists to confirm information gathered from hot spots during elections with assigned high security officials and, especially recently activated Elections Committees and an established Joint Information Centre on elections in the region.
“We are still not in normal times, especially in an election year with Coronavirus. Let’s us check, confirm the facts, weigh the safety and security implications, before reporting”, he added.
Mr Acheampong noted that: “Do not be too quick to present the news first”, but question the rationale for breaking the news first in order not to ignite chaos.”
He said it was just fair and proper “to situate reports in our context, check facts, confirm and adhere to all security protocols and weigh safety and security implications”, before going to press.
The Crime Officer urged journalists to stick to their professional ethics and avoid sensationalism, avoid showing live sensitive scenes of photos and videos of chaos that would result in hatred, confusion and cause chaos during elections.
Mrs Linda Asante-Agyei, Vice President of the GJA giving an overview of the forum said the project was to establish an inclusive media platform for advocacy to disband political vigilantism and electoral violence in Ghana.
“It will mobilise citizens and communities around disbanding political vigilantism and electoral violence through media platforms to consolidate peace, national cohesion and inclusive development, as well as mobilise a network of the business community to support peace initiatives, conflict-sensitive reporting and messaging.
The Vice President noted that at the end of the project, the knowledge of journalists, political commentators, and CSOs on conflict sensitive reporting and peace-building towards the 2020 elections would have been increased.
He asked Hajia Yakubu Rahinatu, Regional Health Promoter of the Ghana Health Service who spoke on managing information on COVID-19 during the election, expressed the urgent need for the media to access information on the disease and educate members of the public on the reality of the disease and how they could protect themselves from contracting it.
She further expressed worry about the blatant disregard for the safety protocols, especially the one on physical and social distancing, and emphasized that COVID-19 was real and fast spreading.
She reiterated the need for the media to assist in public education on the dangers of the disease and the need to adhere to the safety protocols to stay safe.
The Northern Regional Motor Traffic and Transport Division (MTTD) Commander, Chief Superintendent of Police, Mr Muchiraru Yahaya reiterated the need for the media and the police to work together to ensure a peaceful election.
“We depend on you to communicate our message of peace, security and order to our communities. You depend on us for protection. You depend on us to provide information on your safety and security to avoid harm or danger. When we allow conflict in our friendship, the impact is heavy and devastating on our country”, he added.