Posted by: rumnet | January 31, 2012

Journalists Asked To Exercise Tactfulness During 2012 Polls

Journalists Asked To Exercise Tactfulness 

During 2012 Polls

(Published in the December edition of the advocate) 

By Joseph Ziem

Journalists in Northern Ghana have been asked to exercise maximum tactfulness and responsibility in their reportage as a way of calming any confusion or violence that might occur before, during and after the 2012 general elections.

A participant making a contribution

The call comes amid fears that the recurrent and protracted pockets of violent conflicts, around the north with regrettable loss of human capital and property, might take a turn for the worse next year especially if media practitioners unduly entertain reckless political activists and individuals.

Leading the call during a media-centred capacity building workshop in Tamale, Alhassan Imoru, Media Director of the Rural Media Network (RUMNET), said: “The timing of the workshop could not have come at a better time than now as journalists are bracing up for the 2012 general elections.”

The workshop he said, was designed to have an intended outcome —“reporting that will reduce conflict among citizens before, during and after election 2012. Rather than merely informing, the media should be able to make choices of what stories to report on and how to report them, choices that create opportunities for society at large to consider and value non-violent response to conflict.”

Organised by RUMNET in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for 45 media personnel from the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions, the two-day workshop saw participants updated on topics such as the UNDP Human Security Projects, Conflict Analysis, Rumour Management and Conflict Reduction through Peace Reporting.

Mr. Imoru observed with worry that today words, pictures and public statements are the “weapons of choice” of politicians and warmongers, almost as lethal as arms and ammunition in their bid to achieve their political interests.

 

He emphasised that journalists, as agents of peace whose crucial role was to shape public understanding about conflict through information dissemination, should bear in mind that they bore a heavy responsibility about what they wrote and broadcast.

The Media Director warned: “As the country approaches election 2012, media practitioners should lift themselves above the political divide and politicisation of news in order not to heighten the already tense political atmosphere nationwide. Elections have unfortunately become major sources of conflict and political violence and journalists should not be part of the problem by beating the war drums.”

Mr. Imoru noted that media practitioners would go a long way in minimising violent conflicts in the North if they actively acted as “advocates of peace” in areas of growing vulnerability such as poverty, illiteracy, poor health, low incomes and unemployment, among others. “Media practitioners have a role to play in reducing political tension in the country before, during and after the Election 2012,” he added.

A UNDP representative, Ernest Asigri, who briefed participants on the United Nations Joint Programme on Human Security, (JPHS), highlighted the need for government to begin to tackle conflicts in Northern Ghana from a human security perspective rather than the National Security standpoint.

The Field Programme Co-ordinator recommended human security as a better approach in guaranteeing peace, development and human rights “because it is people-centred, comprehensive, prevention-oriented, context-specific and multisectoral.”

Whilst advocating for stakeholders in human security to pool resources and expertise together to achieve a common goal in an integrated manner, Mr. Asigri entreated the media to also use their pens and microphones persuasively and responsibly to rescue the vulnerable populations from the various forms of insecurities facing them.

“For Government to bring about security in totality, it should go beyond national security to human security: a life with dignity, free from conflict, proliferation of small arms, crimes, poverty, infectious diseases, hunger, environmental degradation, intimidation and identity-based discrimination,” he pointed out.  

Treating the topic on “Conflict Analysis”, a Board Member of the West Africa Network for Peace-building (WANEP) Ghana, Theophilus Ibrahima Dokurugu, said though media practitioners had a role to play in conflict management, they equally had to understand the conflict thoroughly before intervening by way of their reportage.

“A thorough conflict analysis provides a basis for determining interventions that will have increased possibilities of success. Every thorough peace-building process is expensive, but it pays in the end when the desired result is achieved in the interest of the general society,” he stated.

Mr. Dokurugu entreated journalist to do more research on conflict analysis, and when in doubt, crosscheck, refer and ask. Be circumspect in your reportage and never take it for granted whenever you hear of rumours about conflict, no matter whom the report is coming from little children or lunatics. What they say just might be an early warning signal,” he stressed.

He noted that the conflicts that were peculiar to the North could have been managed successfully by the royals involved alone but for the interruptions from those he described as “the interfering shadows” that kept influencing the conflict from a distance.

Mr. Dokurugu stated that stakeholders, particularly the media, must pay attention to good public education and poverty reduction as part of the primary measures by which a number of Northerners could be detached from conflict-thirsty influential people who “take advantage of their ignorance, gullibility and poverty” to trigger all sorts of violent conflicts.

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