The United Nations (UN) says it is opposed to any idea to restrict social media access in Ghana ahead of the November polls.
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas said such an attempt is aimed at restricting the democratic space which the UN is strongly against.
Dr Chambas disclosed this at a media briefing Accra, Friday.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), John Kudalor on May 26, 2016, declared that the Ghana Police Service was considering blocking social media across the country on November 7.
He is concerned that social media could be used as a tool for misinformation thus posing a danger to the nation’s security during the polls.
“At one stage I was even saying that if it becomes critical on the eve and the election day we shall block all social media as other countries have done. So we are thinking about it,” John Kudalor said at a media interaction in Accra
In an interview on Joy News, the IGP said: “If people are churning out the type of information which is quite false then why not? The security of this nation is paramount.”
Following this announcement, the IGP and the police administration came under severe criticism for what has largely been described by some civil societies as an attack on the Constitution of Ghana.
But Dr Chambas said the UN would “obviously be averse to any steps that will amount to restrict to restricting the democratic space particularly any step that will be taken to restrict the freedom of expression.”
He said, “for good or for bad social media serve as one of the modes of expressions of free speech of democratic societies.”
Even though he agreed the platform has some negative sides, he did not rule out the obvious good sides.
He disclosed “We [UN officials] have a scheduled meeting with the IGP to seek clarification as to exactly what he might have meant.”
Some African governments including Congo-Brazzaville, Chad and Uganda in Africa have interfered with or banned access to the social networking website Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.
Bangladesh, China, Iran, North Korea and Syria also blocked social media access although the bans were not related to elections.
The impact of social media on elections has become a fascinating subject for research among social scientist. One study published in 2012 found that Facebook feeds have a significant impact on voting patterns.
In the US, political analysts have observed that social media could decide who wins the presidential elections in November.