By: Claudia Adusei Boatemaa
Ghana is known and recognized internationally as one of the peaceful countries in Africa. This is as a result of our ability to maintain peace in the country. However, such recognition may no longer be attached to Ghana if conflict issues are not well managed and resolved.
In the spirit of conflict management and resolution, the media’s role is very crucial. As evidently seen and experienced in Rwanda, the media, if not well managed, can be used as a tool to incite conflict in the society. It can, however, help prevent conflict.
The media’s role in relation to conflict are; information providing and interpreting, watchdog role, gatekeeping and agenda setting, policymaking, diplomacy, peace promoting and bridge building. These functions of the media are very important, and if well performed can go a long way to resolve conflict and even prevent them.
In the coverage of conflict issues, most media outlets in Ghana tend to focus more on the dramatic events and happenings, rather than the calm and controlled nature of the people. They believe that stories that depict extremist behaviours and actions, series of violence and crisis, disturbing images would sell their stories. However, in the study of Media and Conflict as a course, journalists are to focus more on on-going peace processes, dialogues and mediations as a way of resolving and managing conflict situations. One of the main proponents of peace journalism, Dr. Johan Galtung, holds that peace journalism should strive to spotlight individuals and initiatives that seek to spotlight individuals and initiatives that seek these harmonious conditions, and to lead constructive public dialogues about issues that pertain to justice and equity.
In peace journalism, journalists should thoughtfully select the images they use, understanding that they can misinterpret an event, intensify an already dreadful situation and even re-victimise those who have suffered. Journalists should remind themselves of the media’s role in the Rwanda Genocide and carefully choose and analyse the words they use, understanding that carelessly selected words can be inflammatory.
The police, the army, other security personnel and peace-keeping agencies are making adequate preparations towards the 2020 general elections. The media, both print and electronic, should also make preparations to perform their functions of peace promoting and bridge building adequately, rather than just trying to sell their stories.Ghana is recognised internationally as a peaceful country, let’s all work together to maintain that peace we have known for years.
Ghana Institute of Journalism