GJA Guidelines For Coverage Of Conflict Situation Under A State Of Emergency

The Guidelines is the result of negotiated agreement between the Ghana Journalists Association and the Government following the imposition of State of Emergency in the Dagbon area of Northern Ghana in March 2002.


The people’s basic right to know is essential to peace.  The responsible facilitation by the media of the people’s right to know is therefore critical to peace-building and conflict resolution.


Such responsible facilitation is undermined or even directly countermanded by the publication of inflammatory material.  It is also constrained by any form of arbitrariness.  It is therefore in the interest of the nation as a whole – the citizenry, the media and the Government – to articulate clear guidelines on what is or is not inflammatory.




•    As a basic principle, professional practice that observes and upholds the GJA Code of Ethics is likely to avoid inflaming a conflict situation.

•    In particular, there should be a special effort to practice unbiased, accurate and balanced reporting within every story.

•    There should be a clear recognition of the inflammatory potential of language.  Abusive threatening or otherwise provocative language and announcements are completely unacceptable.


The following should be avoided at all cost:


•    Sectional, ethical, parochial references, repetition of or allusions to stereotypes, and/or slurs.


•    Hate speech and propaganda are inadmissible.


Special care should be taken with the following in a conflict situation:


•    The need to separate fact from opinion and conjecture


•    Sensibility to national and local values and norms


•    The observance of tact and diplomacy


•    The coverage of people directly affected by or with a vested interest in a conflict



•    The mobilisation, whether direct or inadvertent, of parties in a conflict


•    Material that diminishes human dignity, for example inappropriate graphic descriptions or pictures



Radio presenters and talk-show hosts discussing the conflict are particularly urged to be circumspect.  They are particularly urged to dismiss phone-ins that are aggressive, insulting or touch on the sensibilities of people involved in a dispute or conflict.  All phone-ins shall be preceded and punctuated by appropriate reminders to callers to be equally circumspect or otherwise be immediately cut off. As a further safeguard to peace, local radio stations that operate in a conflict situation and actively encouraged to acquire delayed-broadcast equipment for use on phone-ins.  Stations that do not possess such equipment are advised to suspend phone-ins on the issue and to dwell mor on panel discussions.





In the interest of maintaining peace in a conflict situation, infringement of the above guidelines may attract sanctions. Such sanctions shall comprise:


1)    In the case of an individual media practitioner, imprisonment for a maximum of 14 days with the option of a fine.


2)    In the case of a media house, the appointment of an Administrator to direct its operations, subject to to review within 14 days. 


As the constitutionally mandated organ to uphold the freedom and independence of the media, the National Media commission (NMC) is enjoined to establish within its complaints Settlement Committee, a special committee to monitor the observance of the above guidelines and to initiate the necessary legislation to give effect to these guidelines.  The NMC shall, in addition, have the authority to appoint an Administrator where necessary.



Public Institutions and Peace-Building and Conflict Resolution


Even as the media make special effort to facilitate the peace and the resolution of conflict, it should also be recognized that the Government and public institutions have a central role in this process.  To carry it out, they need to provide access to information and to guarantee and be accountable for the integrity of the information they put out.  Where in doubt of the propriety of a story, they (journalists/government officials) should refer it to the NMC for resolution.

The above sanctions shall not apply in the coverage of infringements of human rights by the Government and security personnel



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