Studies conducted by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) on ‘radio coverage of local governance issues in selected districts across Ghana’ has revealed that many radio stations in Ghana continue to give far less attention to local governance and local development issues.
The studies, which focused on 28 selected radio stations spread across 24 districts in eight out of the 10 regions of Ghana, also evidenced weak capacity and limited understanding of local governance issues among journalists. Consequently the few local governance programmes and issues that are broadcast on the studied radio stations tended to be of low quality, highly un-critical and thus less impactful. The practice where local radio stations link-up with Accra-based stations during prime time news and programming, was also found to be a significant factor affecting local radios’ focus and impact on local development, participatory and accountable local governance issues.
Besides limited programme production skills and logistical constraints among journalists and local stations, the study also found reluctance on the part of District Assembly officials to disclose relevant information to the media as another major challenge. The studies were carried out through content analysis of radio programmes, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with radio station managers, journalists, officials of District, Municipal and Metropolitan Assemblies, and community members.
‘The findings are worrying and we need to change this situation. This is because, several studies by the MFWA and other bodies have all concluded that local radio stations are arguably the most influential and powerful platforms for fostering participatory, accountable and transparent governance, particularly at the local level,’ said Ms. Abigail Larbi, the MFWA’s programme officer for Media, Development and Democracy.
On what the MFWA was doing to help improve the situation, Ms. Larbi said the organisation was embarking on a project to help bring about the needed changes. She explained that the project involves strengthening local media, and collaborating with them and other key governance actors to increase citizens’ participation in governance processes while promoting accountability and responsiveness among duty-bearers.
As part of its intervention, the MFWA is organising a national stakeholders’ forum on Thursday May 29, 2014, to discuss the challenges of Ghana’s Decentralisation and Local Governance Process and the role of the media in dealing with those challenges. According to the programme officer, the strength of the MFWA’s approach is the fact that it tries to mobilise all the relevant stakeholders, at the local as well as national level, to promote and enhance participatory and accountable local governance in Ghana.
‘As we seek participatory governance, we have to be participatory in our approach. So for the National Stakeholders’ Forum for example, the MFWA is organising it in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Institute of Local Government Studies, the Local Government Services Secretariat, and the National Commission for Civic Education. Such collaboration will also be established at the District levels where we work,’ Ms. Larbi explained.
Issued by the MFWA in Accra on May 27, 2014
The MFWA is a regional independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Accra. It was founded in 1997 to defend and promote the rights and freedom of the media and of expression.
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