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General News of Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

IDEG to hold webinar on the use of virtual space for 2020 Elections campaigns

The Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) has announced its decision to organize a webinar to promote what it terms as “responsible virtual election campaigning”.

The event themed “Using the Virtual Public Space for the 2020 Elections Campaign” will be held on July 18, 2020.

This, according to them, is as part of plans to contribute its quota towards achieving peaceful elections with credible outcomes in the face of restrictions brought about by COVID-19.

According to IDEG, virtual mediums such as radio, TV, webinars, and social media, although very powerful and important for the upcoming elections have some inhibitions which if not addressed could pose a threat to the country’s peace and stability.

The Democratic Governance institute also registered its displeasure about the fact that technology is used to promote impunity and undermine the integrity of parliamentary and presidential elections.

“The influx of commercial radio and television stations in the country coupled with the emergence of social media has contributed to the rise of misinformation, hate speech and negative propaganda.”

Recent communication research has revealed that about 70% of Ghanaians have encountered misinformation, however, 75% of Ghanaians consider misinformation to be frequent. Most of the negative information is usually targeted at politics and election-related activities.

Currently, there are over 350 commercial radio stations and more than 30 television stations operating in Ghana, separate from international media houses that broadcast through satellite and digital subscriptions. The danger is that a third of these media houses are owned by individuals with well-known party affiliation, therefore if unregulated, hate speech, fake news and propaganda are likely to dominate electoral campaigning over the airwaves far more than in previous elections,” it established in a press statement.

Read the full statement below:

PRESS STATEMENT

(For immediate Release – Tuesday 7th July 2020)

USING THE VIRTUAL PUBLIC SPACE FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS CAMPAIGN: OPPORTUNITIES, CHALLENGES AND THE WAY FORWARD

Like other countries, Ghana has been adversely affected by COVID-19. Since 13th March, 2020 when the nation recorded its first cases, the country has seen a surge surpassing 20,000 as at 6th July, 2020. More distressing is the fact that there is no known vaccine yet for the prevention of coronavirus.

This creates a very dangerous public health situation that requires that the health of the population has to be prioritized and protected. The government have subsequently imposed restrictions on all forms of public gathering. Meanwhile Ghana’s eighth presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in December 2020 is less than five months away. Under the current COVID-19 conditions, the normal space for large public party rallies and campaign gatherings can no longer be justified. The, alternative and COVID-19 safe mediums such as virtual media have now become a safer, powerful and more important medium for political party campaigns for Ghana’s 2020 national elections. Political parties and election candidates will now rely extensively on the media, both traditional and new media to carry their messages across to the voting public.

Virtual mediums such as radio, TV, webinars, and social media, although very powerful and important for the upcoming elections have some inhibitions which if not addressed could pose a threat to the country’s peace and stability. More evidence has emerged on the growth and use of disruptive social forces and technology to promote impunity and undermine the integrity of parliamentary and presidential elections in the country.

The influx of commercial radio and television stations in the country coupled with the emergence of social media has contributed to the rise of misinformation, hate speech and negative propaganda.

Recent communication research has revealed that about 70% of Ghanaians have encountered misinformation, however, 75% of Ghanaians consider misinformation to be frequent. Most of the negative information is usually targeted at politics and election related activities.

Currently, there are over 350 commercial radio stations and more than 30 television stations operating in Ghana, separate from international media houses that broadcast through satellite and digital subscriptions. The danger is that a third of these media houses are owned by individuals with well-known party affiliation, therefore if unregulated, hate speech, fake news and propaganda are likely to dominate electoral campaigning over the airwaves far more than in previous elections.

In December 2016, during the tabulation and reporting of the certified results of the presidential and parliamentary elections, the Electoral Commission (EC) complained of a cyber-attack on its database.

Neither the public nor social media took that complaint seriously. However, a Netflix documentary (2019) on African elections which were subjected to cyberattacks, voter suppression and social media misinformation by international firms such as Cambridge Analytica in 2016 – 2019 mentioned Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria among others.

Against this backdrop, the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) will hold a Webinar on the topic:

“Using the Virtual Public Space for the 2020 Elections Campaign” on Wednesday, 8th July 2020 from 10:00am - 12:00pm (GMT). Panelists include Mr. George Sarpong, Executive Secretary, National Media Commission (NMC), Mr. Kwami Ahiabenu II, Tech Innovations Expert and Founder, Penplusbytes, and Mr. Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director, Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA).

It is hoped that the main objective of the virtual forum which is to promote responsible virtual election campaigning will contribute to achieving peaceful elections with credible outcomes in the face of the restrictions brought about by COVID-19.

This Free to participate event is open to the general public including political parties and the media.

Guests are expected to click on a link that will be shared prior to the virtual forum for registration and participation. Alternatively, interested persons can visit the IDEG’s website https://ideg.org/ and click on the upcoming events tab to register.

IDEG wishes all contesting political parties and election candidates safe, engaging and issue-focused campaigning in our collective pursuit towards credible and peaceful elections.

God bless our homeland Ghana!

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