Mr Kabral Blay–Amihere, Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), on Thursday launched the Guidelines for Political Advertising with a call on the media to abide by them or face the Commission’s wrath.
Mr Amihere expressed the NMC’s preparedness to take on any media house that might go contrary to the rules and regulations spelt out in the guidelines to ensure sanity as far as political advertisements in the country are concerned.
He called on media houses to pay particular attention to Sections 14 and 16 of the Guidelines which talked about Incitement and Political Advertising on Election Day respectively.
Mr Amihere expressed concern about the decline of journalistic ethics in the country and urged journalists to be circumspect in their utterances and reportage in order not to plunge the country into chaos.
“Journalists in countries like Kenya, Ivory Coast and Rwanda have been hurled before the International Criminal Court in the Hague, not because they pulled guns, but because of their choice of words,” he said.
He called on Ghanaians to sustain the serene and peaceful atmosphere that existed in the country amidst vigorous political campaigns as the general election approaches.
“It’s good to note that amidst all the tensions as the elections approach, we have remained and continue to remain peaceful,” he said.
Mr Blay-Amihere, who is a former ambassador to Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, appealed to the media to give a fair and leveled ground to all political parties.
He called for effective gate keeping and editing to flush issues that had the potential to cause mayhem.
He said the NMC failed to come out with the guidelines on time due to lack of funding, and praised STAR-Ghana, DANIDA, UKAID and the USAID for their sponsorship adding that the guidelines would be applied in subsequent elections.
Mr Blay-Amihere, who was the head of the committee that came out with the guideline, appealed to journalists and the various media houses to corporate with the NMC for its successful implementation.
He called for the establishment of an in-house committee in all media houses to oversee and scrutinize all political ads to ensure that they met NMC’s standards before broadcast.
Mr Akoto Ampaw, Head of the NMC Legal Team, said the commission had been mandated by the Constitution to ensure high journalistic standards in the mass media.
He said media houses did not wield much control on the content of political advertisements because, most of the time, these ads were usually prepared by the political parties and only brought to the media houses to be broadcast.
Mr Ampaw said the guidelines were to uphold the peace and sanity enjoyed by the country and to prevent exploitation, incitement and needless tension in the country as a result of political advertisements.
“This is also to enable the people to make the right decisions as to who to vote for and to ensure that messages are not distorted or inciting,” he said.
Mr Ampaw complained about abuse of incumbency on the part of state media houses by broadcasting the successes of government “as if it is the normal government agencies giving out their normal information on government programmes and achievements to the public.”
“We believe that during the last two months to elections, the state media should not broadcast these usual achievements of government,” he said.
Issues treated in the guidelines include Children in Political Advertising, Political Advertising during News Bulletins, False and Misleading Advertising, Prejudice and Discrimination and Identification of Political Advertising.
Others are Misrepresentation, Premium Rate, Life Presenter Mention, Abuse of Incumbency, Technical Standards, and Disguise in Political Advertising.