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Feature Article of Sunday, 18 March 2012

Columnist: Adu-Otu, Yaw Asare

Free Speech Overdrive Kills Civility .....

in Social and Political Lives of Ghana, Response to Ransford Tetteh, GJA

From: Yaw Asare Adu-Otu

Aduotu1@yahoo.com

Monday March 12, 2012

Ransford Tetteh of GJA has said what Ghanaians need to hear in straight language (ref: GJA Blasts Kofi Jumah & Co; ghanaweb.com, March 10, 20112). Ransford Tetteh’s statement offers the opportunity for me to say what has been on my mind for a long time.

The following quotation is apropriate for the consideration of media personalities in Ghana: "However, the GJA has long identified broadcasting as the most slippery ground on the media landscape and wishes to once again urgently appeal for the passage of the Broadcasting Law to help to improve the regulatory framework as political campaigns begin in an election. "The GJA is equally concerned about the use of hate speech and insulting language in the media especially on radio and wishes to appeal to all those who have the opportunity to engage in national discourse be it as panelist, contributors and callers to be temperate in their conversation." I want to suggest that Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) must move forward what Ransford Tetteh has accomplished here by providing in-service seminars for some of its members.

It seems Ghanaians, in general, have taken the idea of free speech to a dangerous level. However, in the practice of their profession, journalists should endeavor to separate themselves from the non-professional public and eschew the use of incendiary and corrossive language. After all, educating the public remains an important part of the duties of journalists.

Managers of media houses in Ghana must require their staff to exercise a certain minimum self-censorship. Radio broadcasters in Ghana need to curb excessive editorialization of news. It appears Ghanaian broadcast journalists enjoy testing and abusing what the absence of criminal libel offers. In some instances, calumny and vituperation have become tolerated behavior by electronic media practitioners from people they invite to be on their programs.

Above all, aloofness of the National Media Commission, NMC, must accept blame for unacceptable conduct of some media personnel in Ghana. It seems the NMC has abandoned its oversight responsibility as a public agency.

NMC has a role to play in protecting the free speech segment of democracy in Ghana from unruly assault.

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