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Ensuring safety of journalist in election 2020

Journalist, as it’s described are the fourth estate of the realm of all affairs in the country, like the President, Vice President, the Speaker of Parliament and the Chief Justice, every protection against all odds to enable us discharge our duties efficiently and effectively without fear or favor but with the optimum goal of safeguarding the pears, peace and overall propagating the truth through our medium to the world must be given.

But often, journalist are seen creating the news or by screwing an issue to a particular angle just for ones parochial interest which cast a negative sneer on the affected individual or institution involve.

Violence, intimidation, malpractices and mischief by  incumbent and other political parties are just a few of the ups and down exhibited during such exercise, it is mandatory for key actors and institutions to play their professional role in protecting all journalist whom the public are relying on for authentic news about the elections nationwide.

THE JOURNALIST

As practitioners, we often exhibit our side of view about an issue instead of reporting to the public just what we saw it on the field for them to ascertain were the truth lies. Such tendencies often position us as practitioners in the role of a judge instead of being a medium and this goes against the ethics of the profession.

As journalist, our safety and security must be the first and foremost cross for us to carry whenever we step out on a mission to investigate or witness an event and later report to the public. If we as journalist discharge our duties we enough then there should be no attempt to silence or sensor our work.

Journalist who works for media house own by politicians or employed due to political affiliates or influence must do well not to favor any political party or attach any political connotations when discharging their duties because such behavior could flare up tempers from the other camp and this can affect the quality of information coming from the practitioner.

PHOTOJOURNALIST PERSPECTIVE

Mr Nana Kofi Acquah said, since photojournalist must get closer to the action in hustle and volatile environment, but was of the view that one must first get to associate and be friends with the locals in the area to be identified and helped as a brother or sister in time of need.

Mr Acquah said as photojournalist, he said, one must have backups such as extra lenses, memory storage, batteries and other accessories, recorders, pens, note pads, watch and must be conversant with nearby land marks for easy directions in case of help.

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)

Mr Muheed Saeed, Senior Programmes Officer for Freedom of Expression for Media Foundation For West Africa believes that dealing with issues such as elections , chieftaincy, demonstration, classified investigations, security, theft and others, a more experienced journalist who knows the who has in-depth knowledge must be assigned to cover but not green horns .

Mr  Saeed said Vehicles, according to him should be placed at vantage points or be provided for the crew when going out on such an expedition for easy evacuation from to and from location.

On political parties, He said  heads of these parties must strongly caution their supporters to desist from attacking journalists who legitimately carrying out their duties. The security must also endeavor to protect the media against red flag or hot spots and always prevent political tags from attacking journalists.

ONLINE MAN

An online Editor of the Daily Graphic, Issac Yeboah, who was passionate about the outcomes of every work said its always better to ‘bring the story but not be the story’ and cautioned journalists to desist from taking center stage of events and deciding how it should go, but rather be the middle man and get out of location calmly as possible at hustle environment.

SECURITY EXPECTATIONS

Superintendent Sheila Jessie Abayie-Buckman, Director of Public Affairs of the Ghana Police Service, noted that to ensure the safety of journalists, the personnel themselves and their press houses must firstly build relations with the security officers and their institutions so that in time of need no one is find wanting.

Superintendent Abayie-Buckman said Journalist often go against security orders all in the name of getting closer to the action which goes against the ethics of the security but if there is mutual respect from both personnel, the media will be protected by the security at all times.

She noted that, as media personnel, we must not move alone but in groups to and from a location especially during tension times like elections, demonstration and other event that one can not envisage the outcome.

Col. Mbawine Atintande, Director of Public Affairs (rtd) of the Ghana Armed Forces, said the role of the media towards the credibility of the electoral process is not to have any personal interest in the outcome of the results but to convey and educate the public on how free, fair and transparent the elections where.

Col. Atintande , said interfering in the work of the security bodies, the Electoral Commission (EC) and other relevant bodies and most importantly declaring results ahead of the mandated institution should not be the work of the journalist but rather to provide voter education.

He said that safety and security of journalist in this year’s election is a personal and institutional agenda which must be critically looked at.

The Retired Director said it is a personal obligation for any journalist to secure its safety and security right from home before stepping out and advised that during elections journalist should desist from wearing clothes with political color connotations. Journalist or media houses should avoid airing inflammatory, divisive or violent statements or reports.

Col. Atintande, said media houses must make sure journalists are equipped with all the necessary contacts of personality to rely on in case of challenges and the newsroom must always keep in touch with their personnel on the field.

He said that the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) and National Media Commission (NMC) must ensure that the media houses provide proper accreditation for their field staff before assigning them and also insist that the Electoral Commission (EC) comes out with branded and identifiable bands and or vests to be given to accredited journalists for easy identification by all especially the security for protection.

The E C, he said must provide a designated centers and a media liaison officer at polling and collation stations to brief the media on new developments on regular bases before, during and after 2020 elections.

VICTOR A. BUXTON

The writer is a photojournalist with the New Times Corporation

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