The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, yesterday urged journalists and media practitioners to create an environment which encourages consensus building to help lower the political tension in the country.
This, he said, would be one of the critical ways media practitioners will contribute their quota towards nation building, and the wellbeing of humanity in general.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II also called on the media to help preserve the peace, unity and stability of the country by discharging their responsibilities diligently.
The Asantehene made the call when he delivered an address at the official opening of the maiden media capacity enhancement programme at the Manhyia Palace in Kumasi.
“It is my hope that improving the understanding of our practitioners will contribute to the enhancement of the quality of the media and diminish the source of concerns we have today,” he said.
He noted that even though the media had been mostly spared the criticism that goes with elective offices like the Legislature and Executive, because it is not an elected body, “the role the media plays is every inch as criticism as any of the institutions within the body politic.”
“The media opens the eyes and ears of society to what is happening around them and acts as the filtration system that enables the people to filter the good from the bad. And you induce the feelings and emotions which contribute to the decisions and actions we take as individuals.
“Indeed, all the studies about the role of the media attest to its power and influence under all political systems. Just as it helps the people make informed decisions in a democracy, so it can mobilise and arouse mob action to de-stabilise society,” he said.
The Asantehene recounted how the media in Ghana had contributed to the building of the country’s democratic governance.
“We remember the period when all media, both print and electronic, were owned and controlled by the state. The contrast today is mind-boggling. The media terrain today reflects a diversity of political opinion, and journalists feel free to operate without the constraints of the now deceased criminal libel law,” he said.
He however urged the media to be circumspect in their reportage, stressing that “the core business of the media is to provide the citizens with information which enables them come to informed decisions.”
“Every professional journalist knows that his greatest asset, indeed the greatest asset of the profession, is credibility. And credibility comes from the accuracy of information and the fairness with which it is presented,” he said.
Rumours and facts
He cautioned them to refrain from rumour peddling and try as much as possible to report what is factual.
“There is a line between fact and comment or conjecture that the profession must always respect and the media must never forget that it loses credibility whenever it publishes material which turns out to be untrue or substantially inaccurate,” the Asantehene said.
With regard to the idea that the media has unlimited freedom, Otunfuo Osei Tutu said the removal of the criminal libel law only removed the criminal element which could send journalists to jail, but the right of the citizen to have recourse to the law for the protection of their reputation against defamation by the media remains absolutely intact.
“The laws of libel and defamation are alive and there are still laws against incitement, offences likely to cause a breach of the peace and many others designed to protect the peace and security of the state. Any of these laws can have relevance to the operations of the media,” he said.
The Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, for his part, pointed out that continuous training for journalists is the surest way to promote media professionalism.
The theme for the training, “Equipping the media to play an effective role in our nation building”, according to him, could not be more apt and timely as it invites and focuses on all stakeholders to reflect on the relevance of the profession in its role as the Fourth Estate of the realm in the exercise of nation building.
He emphasised that without the media it is difficult for the state to inform its citizens of developments in the realm, or for the citizenry to receive feedback on the business of state and the way forward.