The Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) on Monday set the alarm against the usage of indecent expressive and abusive language on media platforms as the electioneering campaign gradually hits the upper gear.
“Fast approaching the December polls, the usage of these anti-societal languages is on the rise; from June 1 – 14, 2020, there have been a total of 141 ethical violations monitored from 917 media platforms.
“As usual, majority of such incidents were perpetrated on politically affiliated media houses by politicians,” Mr Kwesi Jonah, IDEG Senior Research Fellow and Head, Advocacy and Institutional Relations stated in a paper to the Ghana News Agency in Accra.
He said in an attempt to address these problems, the IDEG had initiated series of public engagement forum on the theme: “Using the Virtual Public Space for the 2020 Elections Campaign: Opportunities, Challenges and the Way Forward”.
He said the platform aimed at promoting responsible virtual election campaigning towards achieving peaceful elections.
Mr Jonah said conclusion from the first forum was that the regulatory institutions have serious capacity challenges in sanitizing the virtual public space.
He said it also came to light that there were still no known laws or policies to help ethical violations and media infractions, and “there seems to be an absolute lack of a legal framework within these issues that can be addressed”.
He said the virtual public space was fast becoming the venue for the electioneering processes in the run up to the December 2020 elections.
“The virtual public space, however, is largely unregulated leading to violation in the form of fake news, misinformation, hate speech and verbal attacks on personalities.
“As evidenced in previous elections, the virtual public space was a haven for the abuse and violation of human rights”.
Mr Jonah said the trend had escalated with the restrictions on public gatherings necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the nation was saddled with the mystery of regulating the virtual public space, the dilemma on whether regulation and censorship were the ideal solutions for the country, had made the society ambivalent to the issue of regulation.
“Whilst the no-regulation situation has led to irresponsible journalism and commentary on traditional and social media, enforcing strict regulations can also hinder free speech and media as there are difficulties associated with defining inappropriate content,” he said.
He expressed concern about the readiness of the National Communications Authority (NCA), National Media Commission (NMC) and the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to bring sanity and order in the unregulated use of the virtual public space by the political parties and the media houses.
“Inadequacies in the laws to control and manage the system make this scenario even more precarious,” he said.
He said with nearly four months to the general elections, the immediacy for education and dialogue to stem the abuse of indecent and irresponsible campaigning and ensure a level playing field for all parties, based on mutual respect had become apparent and imperative.
Against this backdrop, IDEG would hold its second in a series of Webinar forums on the topic: “The Balance between Freedom and Regulation in the Virtual Public Space: What do we do?”
Panelists include: Nana Kwesi Gyan-Appenteng, Consultant and former NMC Chairman; Mr. Prince Hari Crystal, Executive Council Member, Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association; and Dr. Isaac Lartey Annan, Director, CHRAJ.
He said the main objective of the virtual forum is to map out the way forward on how to protect citizens from violation of rights in the virtual public space in the run-up to the December 2020 elections.