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Opinions of Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Columnist: Kingsley Raouf Germain

Fake news - The new 'currency' for the politicians in Ghana

A journalist is a person who writes articles for a newspaper or magazine or broadcasts them on radio or television.
(Cambridge Dictionary)

You can not call yourself a journalist if all you do is surf social media pages for trivial issues to publish. You are only an agent of fake news.

The work of journalists or the media in nation-building can not be overemphasized since they help to shape public policy. The constitution affirms this position under chapter 12. They are also referred to as the fourth estate of the realm for the reason being that they are very important.

In recent times there has been a remarkable upsurge in the proliferation of online news portals publishing news stories covering Entertainment, Politics, Fashion, Music, Tourism, Health and Environment. One would argue, that, with Ghana being a peaceful country in Africa with enviable democratic credentials and a Constitution which provides for the freedom of the press, then there shouldn't be a problem even if there is an upsurge or proliferation of news or online news portals.

Essentially, we desire for a better Ghana with good opportunities for all. I, therefore, wish to express my humble opinion on some gemane issues I believe needs some attention from relevant institutions or authorities. For the purpose of this article, which is my first, I have decided to address the issue of FAKE NEWS.

First and foremost, fake news is false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or to subject individuals to ridicule.

In the run-up to the 2020 elections, we are going to witness an upsurge in fake news of fabrications in order to discredit political opponents or institutions or bring a certain topic or group of people to the attention of the Ghanaian public.

This will be done so brutally and maliciously by politicians and their opponents. The purpose will be to character assassinate or defame persons of repute and to whip up a public uproar in order to gain political advantage. Most of the fake news stories will be sensational in nature with the intent to stir anger, annoyance, disappointments or fear.

More so, we would be inundated with an avalanche of fake news from the two major political parties, the opposition National Democratic Congress, NDC, and the ruling New Patriotic Party, NPP. This will be done so fiercely by News houses with editors and journalists who have aligned themselves with the two major political parties. The online news portals which are not regulated to adhere to standards and ethics of media practice virtually have a free space to disseminate fake news recklessly. With little or no training in journalism, managers of these online news portals who have gained notoriety for spreading fake news only surf the internet for anything to copy and paste on their platforms without verification. A very dangerous trend which needs urgent attention from authorities.

A country with a fledging democracy like ours must take the necessary steps to guard the successes chalked so far since fake news has a propensity to plunge our dear nation into chaos or an abyss. There must be a conscious effort by the relevant institutions to streamline the activities of news or online news portals that operate within the jurisdiction in order to bring some sanity.

Article 162(1) of the constitution 1992, States that " Freedom and independence of the media are hereby guaranteed 162(2) " subject to this constitution and any other law not inconsistent with this constitution, there shall be no censorship in Ghana."

163 " All state owned media shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions."

However, Article 164 provides that, " The provisions of article 162 and 163 of this constitution are subject to laws that are reasonably required in the interest of national security, public order, public morality and for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons."

It seems to me, the framers of our constitution envisaged the recklessness of media practitioners and others who may seek to hide under media freedoms to do mischief, hence Article 164 which sets some limitations. Rwanda is still fresh in our minds. It reminds us of how the reckless use of a media platform (radio station) played a role in plunging the country into war leading to the massacre of thousands of Tutsis by hutu rebels. It was a genocide which shook the world and today we say, never again.

It's against this backdrop, that I write to draw the attention of relevant state institutions of the need to take steps to address the issue of fake news before, during and after 2020, which is an election year. It's also important to emphasize that, fellow Ghanaians should be on the look out for fake news and be watchful of the links they click whilst online. People should rely on media houses that maintain high journalistic standards for Information, which of course can always be independently verified. Let's all come together to stamp out fake news.

This piece was crafted by Kingsley Raouf Germain ( Nakwebajea) aka K.R. God'sChild

The writer can be reached through his personal email:
kingsleyraoufgermain@gmail.com

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