Media Foundation ready to check incendiary speech

media-foundation-west-africa-mfwaThe Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has introduced a fully-packed Language Monitoring Instrument to check abusive speech, as political actors intensify their campaign activities to canvass votes for the November Polls.

The tools, endorsed by a wide range of stakeholders, would serve as a guide for observers to track about 70 radio networks across the 10 regions, against allowing political actors to use their platforms as conduit to perpetrate hatred and animosity.

Mr Sulemana Braimah, the Executive Director of MFWA, told the participants that the 2016 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections ought to be contested on ideas and issues devoid of insults and the instigation of violence in order to address the concerns undermining national progress.

The monitors recruited would apply the communication guide to pinpoint individuals and radio stations that encourage the use of abusive language so that the offenders would be named and shamed in an effort to nib the practice in the bud, he said.

The Director reminded media practitioners and journalists of their powerful role in consolidating democracy and enhancing economic development through education and information.

They should therefore not succumb to pressure from self-seeking politicians to disturb the national peace.

Professor Kofi Agyekum, Dean of the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, also highlighted the importance of language as a double-edged tool that could be used to make peace or foment conflict and create instability.

He consequently urged the media to assert their critical role in society and ensure that this year’s elections became peaceful by focusing on decent language in broadcasting.

They should direct communicators to address issues of national concern without recourse to the use of unsavoury language that inflamed passions, he advised.

The monitoring would be done over a nine-month period – from April to December – during which records would be taken on the times of broadcasting of programmes, the stations, their ownership and the location of radio station.

The names of hosts, guests or presenters, political party and main subjects of the discussions as well as the attribution, sources of news and programme content would be penned down.

The instrument also assesses language and expressions used, including insult, hate speech against a particular ethnic group or religion, prejudice, bigotry, inflammatory expressions, incitement, curses or ethnic slurs and stereotyping.

Politicians making unsubstantiated allegations, using gender specific insults and divisive expressions would also be closely watched.

The Foundation would also monitor types of stories, embellishment or enhancement used, programme handling by host, focus on news programmes or discussions and event broadcasting.

Agents of political parties, the media, Peace Council, National Commission for Civic Education, Electoral Commission, National Media Commission, Ghana Journalists Association and Civil Society groups validated the instrument at a meeting facilitated by MFWA.

It is under the theme, “Promoting Decent Language and Issue-based Campaigning for Peaceful Elections in Ghana, 2016”.

The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and Star Ghana are funding the scheme.

Source: GNA

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