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The role of the media in free and fair elections
A GNA feature by Mildred Assifuah

Accra, April 16, Ghanadot/GNA - The political tension is rising, the masses are expressing all kinds of dissenting views all in the cause of democracy and freedom of speech.

But should the freedom of speech be abused or should people be gagged anytime they try to use offensive language to disrupt the peace and tranquillity of a particular environment.

The mood during election year 2008 could be described as tense, uncertain and full of activities - political, social and economic.

The President of the Republic must relinquish power to either a member of his own party or of a different party - this what the electorate would decide on come December 7, 2008.

The media oftentimes have been saddled with the responsibility of setting the national agenda in a positive and development oriented manner especially in this electioneering moment when the searchlight is on those, who want to entrusted with the destiny of the nation.

The role of the journalists in this sense become paramount and this must be done in such a way to bring about the requisite dividends - the peace and stability.
The pen has always been described as being mightier than the sword and this moment is really the time for the media to prove their mettle.

Perhaps the most important function the media should perform in this era of the country's democratic advancement is to provide voters with the information they need to make sound decisions in the voting booth. If people don't know what they're voting for, our democracy would be in serious trouble.

Voter ignorance must be extensively dealt with by educating supporters of political parties to choose not because of personality, tribe or creed but what the individual could offer the nation. The situation where supporters are grossly misinformed about what a candidate stands for should not happen.

Issues concerning the candidature of a particular person must be presented bare and left to the electorate to decide.

How can the electorate know the candidates and what they stand for if the media concern is engrossed in controversy and spinning instead of the concentrating on issues?

How do we have meaningful elections when people don't know whom they're voting for?

The media are responsible for giving a balanced inspection of all claims, careful fact checking, and reasoned analysis that would help the masses to make informed decisions on the choice of a candidate.

This notwithstanding, there is the need for effective collaboration between the media and all state agencies concerned with ensuring free and fair elections.

The Electoral Commission; National Media Commission and National Commission for Civic Education need to step up their educational campaign on the dos and don'ts of elections.

The NCCE in particular needs to overhaul its educational methodologies especially on democratic governance and the role of the electorate to actively get them involved.
Circumspection should be the watchword in this season and even before vigorous campaigning by the various political parties start to avoid any squabble which had the tendency to plunge the country into destruction. .

Now is the time for the media to stay focused and to educate the masses about what a candidate stands for to enable them make informed decision on December 7 2008.








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