Language-Use On Radio Improving: Media Foundation Report

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has for the past 10 days (August 1-10 2013) been monitoring and documenting expressions used in discussions on key programmes on 26 selected radio stations across the country.

The monitoring exercise forms part of activities under MFWA’s project, Mitigating Risks Around the 2012 Election Petition which is being funded by STAR-Ghana.

Background

The phenomenon of hate speech and indecent expressions and the potential for such expressions to instigate violence and threaten the peace of the country has always been a source of concern to many.

Consequently, many were those who expressed concern about the high incidence of indecent expressions that characterised political discourse in the media during the 2012 electioneering campaigns and also in the on-going election petition at the Supreme Court (SC). At the initial stages of the Election Petition hearing, the SC, for example, issued several warnings against comments that were deemed contemptuous. Subsequently, the Court has meted out punitive measures including jail terms and fines to some political activists.

To help reduce the incidence of indecent expressions and mitigate the potentially negative consequences of such expressions, the MFWA (as it initiated during the 2012 electioneering period) is monitoring indecent expressions on 26 radio stations. The monitoring is aimed at exposing perpetrators (both the media and individuals) and soliciting public pressure for such culprits to reform. The exercise is also aimed at enhancing the standard of media professionalism in the country.

The project involves daily monitoring of expressions used by people who feature on key programmes on 26 selected radio stations across the country. Of particular interest in the monitoring exercise is the tracking of indecent comments related to the proceedings at the SC and on the eventual verdict by the Court. The monitoring is also tracking comments that are pacifists and conciliatory/unifying.

To ensure that the monitoring is reliable and credible, a comprehensive monitoring instrument was developed for the exercise by language, communication and media experts. A total of 26 monitors, many of whom were involved in the previous MFWA monitoring project, have been trained for the exercise. On a weekly basis, reports from all the monitors will be analysed by the MFWA and presented to the public through the media. The weekly reports will also provide credible evidence for the appropriate institutions and groups to take informed remedial actions.

Findings of First 10 Days of Monitoring

The combined efforts of the SC’s punitive actions, the general calls for peace by other Civil Society Organisations and the MFWA’s on-going language monitoring appear to be gradually contributing to sanitising the airwaves. However, the first 10 days of MFWA’s monitoring recorded a total of 14 indecent expressions on 13 out of the 147 programmes that were monitored on the 26 target radio stations.

Morning political discussion programmes aired in the Akan language registered most (9) of the indecent remarks recorded in the course of the monitoring. The category of indecent expressions that recorded the highest incidence was Unsubstantiated Allegations. This was followed by insulting/offensive comments, Innuendoes, remarks calling for Confrontation and Violence and then Provocative and Sarcastic Remarks. The specifics are presented in Table 1 below:

The Election Petition at the Supreme Court dominated discussions on radio during the monitoring period. Specifically, addresses by the various counsels, the verdict and the invitation of the General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, and a member of the Young Patriots of the NPP, Mr Hopeson Adoye, by the SC recorded the highest number of indecent expressions. Typically, nine (9) out of the 14 indecent expressions were recorded during discussions around the Election Petition.

Expressions Used and Political Party Affiliation

Overall, individuals belonging to three (3) political parties – the New Patriotic Party (NPP), National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the National Democratic Party (NDP) – were cited as having used indecent expressions.

Together, the activists of the three parties made a total of 12 out of the 14 indecent expressions recorded. The remaining two indecent expressions were made by individuals whose political affiliation was not known. The distribution in terms of the party affiliation of culprits of indecent expressions and the categories of expressions used are contained in Table 2 below:

During the period, the National Women’s Organiser of the NDC, Madam Anita De Souza, Vice Chairman of the NPP, Mr Fred Oware, and a caller whose political affiliation could not be established, made conciliatory and pacifist remarks which are worth mentioning. Below are the specific remarks they made:

1. Madam Anita De Souza said on Classic FM’s Big Breakfast Show of August 1, 2013 “… Sɛ NDC di nkunim a, yɛbɛgye y’ani, na emom yɛnhuru obiara” (If the NDC becomes victorious in the court case, we’ll jubilate but we’ll make sure we don’t tease anybody).

2. Mr Fred Oware, on the same Classic FM Big Breakfast Show of August 1, 2013 said, “… Sɛ Supreme Court di asɛm no wie na sɛ NPP andi nkunim mpo a, yɛbɛte aseɛ. Efiri sɛ Supreme Court de mera na ereyɛ adwuma. NPP, yɛnpe ntɔkwa biara enti na yɛde y’asɛm akɔdan Supreme Court.” (After the Supreme Court’s verdict, if the NPP is declared losers, we’ll accept and respect the laws of our country. The NPP has no interest in causing any commotion in this country that is why we registered our displeasure with the Supreme Court).

3. A caller from Dagomba line, Techiman, who identified himself as Mohammed also said on said programme “… Ghanafoɔ nyinaa momma yɛnbɔ y’asomdwe ho ban. Political parties no nyinaa ɛnbɔ asomdwe ho dawuro na Onyankopɔn nso ntie yɛn sufrɛ. (All Ghanaians should come together to protect the peace in the country. All the political parties should endeavour to promote peace).

After each of these pacifist remarks, the host, Mr. Adjetia Kwame (popularly known as AK47) praised them for promoting peaceful co-existence. This is commendable and the MFWA encourages all moderators to pursue such a cause.

Categories of Indecent Expressions and the Individuals who used them
Below are the names of the individuals who made the 14 indecent expressions recorded and the platforms on which they made them:

Unsubstantiated Allegations

1. Mr. Owusu Bempah, Deputy Communication Director of the NDP – on Hot FM’s Maakye programme of August 2, 2013

2. Mr Stephen Atibiga, a member of the Government’s Communication Team – in an interviewee on Skyy FM’s Jolley Breakfast Show of 9th August 2013

3. A caller who identified himself as Forson and as an NPP sympathiser – on Skyy Power FM’s Jolley Breakfast Show of 9th August 2013 (in responding to Mr Stephen Atiguba’s allegation)

4. A caller who identified himself as Selassie and an NDC sympathiser – on the same Skyy Power FM’s Jolley Breakfast Show of 9th August 2013 (while responding to Forson)

5. A caller by name Mohammed and an NPP sympathiser – on North Star FM’s Morning Show aired on August 1, 2013

6. Hon. Fii Kwertey, Minister of state in charge of Allied and Financial Institutions – on Radio Gold’s Alhaji & Alhaji programme aired on August 3, 2013

Remarks calling for and endorsing confrontation and violence

1. Mr. Samson Slamber, the NDC Deputy youth Organiser of the Nkwanta North Constituency – on Citi FM’s Eyewitness News on August 2, 2013

Rebroadcast

2. Adwoa Yeboah Adjei, and Hans Oduro-Barnor, News Presenters, in casting the 6am news of Peace FM which was also aired live on Space FM on August 1, 2013 individually read out Mr Hopeson Adoye’s purported contemptuous statement.

Innuendoes
1. A caller from Techiman town who identified himself as Moro Issah (a.k.a Bayerekookoo) – on Classic FM’s Big Breakfast Show aired on August 1, 2013

2. Mr John Boadu, a Deputy Communication Director of the NPP – on Oman FM’s National Agenda of August 1, 2013

Insulting/Offensive Remarks

1. A caller from Mamprusi-line, Techiman who identified himself as Paul and an NPP sympathiser – said on Classic FM’s Big Breakfast Show of August 5, 2013

2. Mr Omari Wadie, Former Ayawaso West Constituency Chairman of the of the NPP – on Okay FM’s Ghana Decides programme aired on August 7, 2013

Provocative Remark

1. A caller from Mamprusi-line, Techiman who identified himself as Paul and an NPP sympathiser – again on Classic FM’s Big Breakfast Show of August 5, 2013
Sarcasm
1. Mr John Boadu, a Deputy Communication Director of the NPP – on Oman FM’s National Agenda of August 1, 2013

Note: As a policy, the MFWA does not publish the indecent expressions recorded. This is informed by the fact that rebroadcasting the specific indecent expressions will amplify such expressions and their potentially negative ramifications. The specific expressions made by people cited in our reports are, however, available at the MFWA.

Radio Stations on which Indecent Expressions were recorded

The 14 indecent expressions recorded over the 10-day period were captured on nine out of the 26 radio stations being monitored. Ironically, the only station (Classic FM) that registered the three pacifist remarks mentioned above also registered three indecent remarks. Table 3 below presents the frequency of expressions recorded on each of the nine radio stations.

Conclusion

The first 10 days of language monitoring on the 26 selected radio stations has shown some relatively satisfactory findings. This notwithstanding, there were a few instances where some moderators fell short in discharging their duties. For instance, some hosts tended to encourage – through their line of questioning – the use of unsubstantiated allegations and innuendoes, among their panellists.

The MFWA is calling on the media to uphold the ethics of the profession and take up their rightful place in the campaigns for peace. The MFWA is also calling on moderators of political and current affairs programmes in particular, to dedicate at least a minute on their programmes to promote peace on their respective programmes.

Issued by the MFWA in Accra on August 15, 2013

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