The Managing Editor of Ghana Business News, Mr Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, has urged journalists not to allow politicians and individuals to use them for their parochial interests.
He reminded journalists of their major role to serve and protect the public interest and not yield to “parochial interests” of politicians and their political parties.
Mr Dogbevi, who is also the Executive Director of NewsBridge Africa, made the call at a two-day capacity building workshop for journalists in the Western Region on conflict sensitive reporting for peace and democracy in Ghana.
It was organized by the National Peace Council with funding from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) to sharpen knowledge and skills of journalists.
It is to ensure responsible conflict reporting and peace building ahead of the December 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Mr Dogbevi told reporters to see journalism as a professional job and abide by its ethics by doing independent work without allowing themselves to be manipulated by politicians.
The participants were advised to stick to the basic principles of journalism and ensure truth, accuracy, objectivity in their reportage.
They were also cautioned not to sacrifice accuracy in their haste to be the first to break the news or come up with scoops.
Mr Dogbevi asked the reporters to always endeavour to cross-check and verify their facts, clear all doubts and make sure they published factual and accurate information.
He pointed out that it was unethical and unprofessional for journalists to report on rumours and speculations on social media without first crosschecking their facts. This would guarantee and maintain credibility of reporters and their media houses.
To ensure originality and accuracy of news reports, Mr Dogbevi said it was equally important for journalists to use reliable and authentic sources.
Mr Francis Kokutse of the Associated Press (AP), who taught reporters peace journalism, said it was time journalists moved away from political reporting to development journalism by writing stories that impacted positively on people’s daily lives.
He said it was imperative to stop media propaganda and the use of intemperate language in an election year to help reduce political violence linked to elections.
Reverend John Ernest Kwofie, the Western Regional Chairman of the National Peace Council, commended Ghanaian journalists for not fuelling major conflicts in the country over the years.
However, he expressed concern about the increasing ownership and use of the media space by politicians to promote their selfish interests which he said posed a major threat to peace in Ghana.
He said the role of the media in ensuring peace-building was very important, and noted: “One careless word or inaccurate detail could ignite a conflict while one clear, balanced report could help defuse tensions and neutralize fear.”
He added that the media has a powerful influence on how people viewed the world, saying: “A reporter’s story on conflict could be the sole information available to the audience.”
“How the reporter frames the conflict could prejudice the audience in favour of one party, it could fuel conflict, intensify conflict or cool down the conflict.”
For instance, he said: “In Rwanda it is on record that radio was used to lay the groundwork for the genocide, while in Serbia, television was manipulated to stir ethnic tensions prior to the civil war and in the Soviet Republic of Georgia, territorial disputes were exacerbated by the propaganda of nationalist mythology in the media”.
He called for concerted efforts to build and strengthen the capacity of local media to report professionally on conflict sensitive issues and early warning signals ahead of elections.
The journalists were taken through topics such as basic principles of journalism, reporting peace, communication skills, storytelling skills, news reporting skills and social media for journalists.