Case One: May 2016: “Officials, supporters and affiliates of the NPP recorded the highest number (30) of indecent expressions – more than twice the total number of indecent expressions recorded by the other five (5) parties put together. They were the major culprits in the use of unsubstantiated allegations and remarks endorsing violence. Also, all the three (3) expressions promoting divisiveness were made by affiliates of the NPP. On the other hand, the only tribal slur recorded was made by an affiliate of the NDC. In Table 2 below, the categories of indecent expressions made by affiliates of the six political parties are presented. Also presented in Table 2 is the breakdown of the categories of indecent expressions used by individuals whose political affiliation was not established on the programmes monitored.”
Case Two: June 2016
“The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has released its latest language monitoring report covering the month of June. During the month, a total of 129 incidents of indecent expressions were recorded on a total of 2,348 radio programmes monitored on 50 radio stations across the country. During the period, officials, supporters and members of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) made a total of 49 indecent expressions, followed by officials, supporters and affiliates of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) who made a total of 27 indecent expressions. Overall, embattled radio presenter and supporter of the NDC, Salifu Maase, alias Mugabe Maase, topped the list of individuals who made indecent expressions during the month of June. He was cited for 27 incidents of indecent expressions on his radio programme, Pampaso on Montie FM. Other top abusive language users during the period were Alistair Nelson with 13 incidents and Mr. Kennedy Agyapong, the Member of Parliament for Assin-North constituency with 8 incidents. As far as radio stations are concerned, Montie FM topped the pack with 43 out of the 129 incidents followed by Oman FM with 18 incidents and Radio Gold with 16 incidents.”
The quotes cited above are taken from the Media Foundation for West Africa’s (MFWA) monitoring of selected Ghanaian radio stations for the months of May and June 2016. Conventional wisdom has it that Oman FM, operating out of Accra was established to be the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) media hatchet wielder. Same wisdom also has it that Montie FM sprung up to counter Oman for the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Be that as it may, both stations have been most robust in prosecuting their agenda.
Oman’s voice has been generally that of its owner, Mr. Kennedy Agyapong, MP, whereas Montie has been fronted by Maase (Mugabe), Alistair and Gunn (The Montie 3), with the owners maintaining a hands-off approach. Now Montie is paying for its robustness with three panellists cooling it in jail and proprietors yoked with heavy fines. Mr. Kennedy Agyapong, who has been credited with uttering some of the most outrageous words on and off air has so far managed to escape the law.
If those whose job it is to ensure media quality and those who claim to represent the conscience of the nation had been assiduous in their tasks, they would not have failed to notice the dangerous trends in the Ghanaian media and taken steps to call the players to order long ago.
They would also not have failed to take note of the naming and shaming exercise undertaken by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) since Election 2012.
For Election 2016, the Foundation has been publishing its findings regularly and from the look of things, totally ignored by those who should be using such information to put things right. Here, one is referring to Parliament, the National Media Commission and the various media associations.
In the introduction to its May 1-15 2016 monitoring of radio stations, MFWA states that, “As Ghana’s 2016 elections draw closer, public discourse in the media, especially radio, continues to be dominated by the use of insult and indecent expressions, which have the potential of inciting violence if not checked.”
The monitoring project tracks the use of abusive campaign language on selected radio stations across the country; it also monitors how radio presenters and show hosts of the target stations handle their programmes and names and shames politicians who use abusive language on radio stations and presenters who allow their platforms to be used to abuse others. The findings are most revealing and disturbing.
So the signs and warnings have always been there; it had to take the Supreme Court to come down heavily on the Montie 3 to rally the nation into accusatory finger-pointing and righteous indignation.
For a very long time Mr. Kennedy Agyapong has been at the forefront of hate language and incitement to violence without any censure from the leadership of his party, nor for that matter identifiable bodies like the churches, mosques or other pillars of society. His recent scatological attacks on Mrs. Charlotte Osei, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, has gone largely un-punished.
Significantly too, all those asking for a Presidential Pardon for the Montie 3 are members of the NDC, though refreshingly, they have also registered their disapproval of the language of the three panellists. Their petition is not against the judgement but the sentences which they feel are too high and should be reduced.
Ghana’s media scene since 1992 has been dominated by the grit of political partisanship, with hardly any academic or intellectual or even philosophical discourse on doctrinaire or policy issues.
The two main political parties, the NDC and NPP espouse social democracy and liberal democracy respectively but these seem to be lost in the hot air of cacophonous verbiage on the airwaves and the print media. Maybe such lofty ideals are way above the comprehension of those who take to the air or print and social media. The content of many radio and the print media is generally a fare of innuendo, rumours, half-truths, self-righteousness and sometimes downright falsehood. Admittedly, some of them provide first rate and professional quality stuff. Television fares much better as the programmes are more nuanced with experts often taking centre stage in discussions. With the print media, ironically, the state-owned titles, Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times are the most credible and reliable.
Though the proliferation of local language radio stations is a welcome development, they also stand accused of being the most ardent purveyors of insult, invective and unprofessional behaviour. Both Montie and Oman are local language (Twi) stations.
The May 2016 “Conclusion and Recommendations” of the MFWA monitoring states that:
“Findings as presented above from the two-week monitoring period (May 1-5, 2016), show a prevalence of unsubstantiated allegations in political communications on the selected radio stations monitored across the country. This is worrying as it impugns the reputations of individuals, groups and political parties. Another issue of concern is the situation whereby hosts and presenters are themselves the perpetrators of abusive language on the airwaves. In consideration of these findings, the MFWA calls on radio hosts and presenters in the country to fully assume their gate-keeping role as moderators and encourage those who feature on their programmes to be savoury in their language. We also urge them to desist from the use of indecent expressions so they can be good examples to those who appear on their programmes.”
By James Brew/Freelance journalist