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Opinions of Monday, 15 February 2016

Columnist: The Catalyst Newspaper

NPP in ‘clone journalism’ for votes

The New Patriotic Party’s presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo’s insatiable quest for power at all cost knows no bounds as he leads his party into a shamelessly fraudulent tactic of forgery to deceive unsuspecting Ghanaians to win cheap political points.

In what The Catalyst terms ‘Clone Journalism’, the NPP has now adopted the trick of forging stories in the name of newspapers it dislikes because these newspapers in a bid to create confusion among the government, party and these newspapers which favour the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) for selfish gains.
The modus operandi is in two forms. One is to fake stories and send them to some of the news websites in the country in the name of a particular media house. The story would be written in a way to set the media house against the party to which it is sympathetic.
It doesn’t end there. The story is then copied or culled onto some of their bogus websites to give it more publicity. In some instances another story is done with reference to that forged story.

Then it is given to the social media operatives to spread it on facebook and whatsapp to give it more circulation and due to the speed with which messages spread on social media, the forged story quickly catches up and the harm is done.
The Catalyst fell prey to this trick when at its blind side a story under the heading, “NDC BEGINS DISTRIBUTION OF MAHAMA TEXTILES FOR VOTES” was carried by Ghanaweb on Thursday, January 28, 2016, attributed to one Ekow Bondzie, who claims to be working with The Catalyst.

The story was subsequently referenced by another website, to authenticate it. This sought to create a tensed situation between The Catalyst and the NDC.
The Catalyst consequently carried a rejoinder in its February 1, 2016 edition to dissociate itself from the story. A rejoinder to Ghanaweb was not published.
The second tactic is the reproduction of the front pages of specific edition of newspapers with false headlines to deceive the public and create disaffection between allies.
This type of forgery is carried out on social networks like tweeter, facebook and whatsapp. They ‘photoshop’ the front page to look exactly like your story.
The Al Hajj newspaper recently suffered from this type of ‘clone journalism’ when it found to its utmost surprise a strange reproduction of its November 26, 2015 edition in facebook posts carrying a completely different set of stories.

The genuine edition had the following stories, “No Changes at Police HQ”, “Mahama is behind Afoko-NPP MPs” and “President Mahama Mocks NPP; Calls Nana ‘Opana’-Freddie Blay is a ‘Rabbit’”.

However, the cloned version of the same edition with the date, carries false stories with the banner headline, “President Mahama Impregnates 17-year-old Maidservant?”
This phenomenon is gradually taking root on social media, an indication of the tricks the NPP intends using to create a chaotic situation in the country if they lose the elections.

Fears are being expressed in many quarters that the party would employ the services of its goons to plant false stories and more dangerously, post forged results of the elections and declare themselves winners before the actual results come in.
This would then lead to vilification of the Electoral Commission (EC), creating the platform for a possible mass action.