DI damns GTV’s shameless pro-NDC bias in election season
Written by danquahinstitute.org Monday, 20 August 2012 17:37
Ghana Television (GTV) in this election period has chosen to ignore all other Presidential Candidates to become a propaganda mouthpiece for the ruling party. This must be highlighted and stopped now as the campaign heats up. With less than four months to the December 7 general elections, the presidency must not be exploited as a PR pretense to offer to offer unfair airtime to one party against all others.
The public broadcaster should be conscious of its responsibility to offer fair coverage to all contenders. GTV, expectedly, has been following religiously the activities of our new President, H.E. John Dramani Mahama, bringing them to the living rooms of Ghanaians and it has been doing so by devoting an inordinately large chunk of its news coverage on every political activity of the President.
What is, however, unacceptable is the apparent decision by the state-owned broadcaster not to afford anything close to fair coverage to all other political parties. It is disgraceful, undemocratic, unconstitutional and not in the public interest for the state-owned broadcaster to turn itself into the propaganda box of the ruling party.
For instance, the fact that President John Mahama is pretending that his nationwide “Thank You” tour is not a campaign tour does not make it a non-electioneering activity. The state-owned broadcaster is behaving as if it is sponsored by the ruling party rather than Ghanaian taxpayers.
This is election period and the people of Ghana demand that all political parties get their fair share of publicity to either challenge assertions or policies of government or make their own case on issues of national interest.
This unhealthy exclusive attention being given to the President has caused the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP) to criticize this policy of the GTV. In reacting to the President’s maiden national address, the opposition party had this to say: “The PPP wishes to state that in other jurisdictions, a presidential address attracts an equal opportunity for other political parties and key stakeholders to share their views on the issues raised and prescribe concrete solutions to the problems at stake. In a country where the state owned media provides extensive coverage to government’s programmes and activities and give unfair advantage to the party in power against other political parties, this presents a barrier to unity. The anomaly needs to be corrected to sustain the unity currently prevailing.”
The Danquah Institute wishes to add that it is not a matter of discretion for the public broadcaster to decide on the time to be allocated to the various political parties, especially during this period leading up to the 2012 general election. All campaign activities resumed the very week after the President’s burial and GTV cannot behave as if it has noticed.
Ghana Television is funded with taxpayers’ money. Its shareholders are the people of Ghana, not any particular party, whether in government or not. GTV is, therefore, accountable to the people of this country and not the Executive. The Danquah Institute, within this context, views the present situation as a clear case of abuse of government, whether inadvertent or not, which at this time in our democratic growth is utterly shameful and unacceptable. The public broadcaster, by its actions, seems to be making a case for its privatization. We say this because, at the moment, the independent broadcasters offer to the general public a more rounded and balanced platform, with all political parties participating, as compared to the entity that is constitutionally mandated to do so, GTV.
GTV has its mandate clearly defined in the Fourth Republican Constitution. The 1992 Constitution, in Article 55, posits: “a political party is free to participate in shaping the political will of the people, to disseminate information on political ideas, social and economic programmes of a national character”. Article 163 further states: “all state-owned media shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions.” The Supreme Court of this country has already made a declaration on these provisions in the case of the New Patriotic Party v Ghana Broadcasting Corporation. Stating emphatically that “"Equal access" meant the same or identical terms and conditions for gaining entry into the state-owned media for the purpose of presenting their political, economic and social programmes to the electorate and persuading them to vote for them at elections. That meant that the same time or space had to be given to each political party, large or small, on the same terms and the officers of the state-owned media had no discretion in the matter.
Article 163 of the Constitution also sets out the duties of the state-owned media in promoting free expression of views by obliging the state-owned media to grant fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions. The word "fair" meant "free from bias" or "equal". Accordingly, the combined effect of articles 55(11) and 163 of the Constitution, oblige the management and editors of the state-owned media to be impartial, showing neither any favouritism towards, nor ill-will towards, any particular group.
The democratic tradition that divergent views and dissenting opinions be given free expression may be summed up in the words Tallentyre, used to describe the attitude of Voltaire on the burning of Helvetius' De l'caprit in 1759: 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.'
History abounds with examples where those in authority were so sure they were right that they regarded dissent as subversive. The reformation was preceded by the burning of heretics, and followed by the persecution of papists. The temptation to ride roughshod over the opinions of others must be resisted; for it is only by the free flow of ideas and discussion that error is exposed, truth vindicated and liberty preserved.
Director, Danquah Institute