Accra, June 30, GNA - Mr Zakaria Tanko Musah, a Law Lecturer and Legal Counsel of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), has schooled journalists on the Electronic Communications Act 2008 (Act 775).
He cautioned media professionals to be mindful of portions of the Electronic Communications Act, especially with regards to the publication of false news.
Section 76 (1) of Act 775 states that “A person who by means of electronic communications service, knowingly sends a communication which is false or misleading and likely to prejudice the efficiency of life saving service or to endanger the safety of any person, ship, aircraft, vessel or vehicle commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than three thousand penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not more than five years or both.
Furthermore, 76 (2) declares that: “A person is taken to know that a communication is false or misleading if that person did not take reasonable steps to find out whether the communication was false, misleading, reckless or fraudulent.”
Mr Musah gave the advice in his presentation in Accra at a Media Literacy Workshop on Election Reporting and Safety of Journalists.
The two-day workshop, which is the last in a series of training for 150 journalists across the country, is being organised by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) Ghana, in collaboration with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), with support from the USAID and the Dutch Foreign Ministry.
Earlier, journalists from the northern sector and middle part of the country were trained in Tamale and Kumasi respectively.
Mr Musah said journalists had fundamental human rights; the right to report freely and express their opinion freely, which was a constitutional right but that the same Constitution also had indicated that the rights was not absolute.
He said the fundamental human rights was qualified, and that qualifications had been defined by the same the Constitution.
He noted that the 1992 Constitution states that even though an individual had those rights; those rights could be interfered with if it was in the public interest.
“If it is in the interest of public safety, public moralities and also to prevent others’ rights for being intervened and therefore, within that same context, the constitution which is the highest law of the country, has also recognize certain sources of law and out of those sources of laws, we have the Electronic Communications Act.”
He said within that Electronic Communications Act there was a provision in there that actually makes it an offence for someone to put out information that had been tendency to cross fear and alarm.
Adding that within the Criminal and other Offences Act there was also a provision that talks about information that could lead fear and alarm and all of those things.
Mr Musah cautioned journalists that in doing their work they need to be very careful to make sure they were not putting out information that was false and that also had the potential to create some sort of fear and alarm.
“When we do that, the law can be used against us and it will be a tragedy because, it will appear as though our fundamental rights is being interfered with but that is not the case,” Mr Musah said.
“But we can avoid all these things and the only way we can avoid that is to try and adhere to our code of ethics.
Because if you look at our journalistic code of ethics, almost everything that the law seeks to outlaw when we adhere to our code of ethics we will get out of that. “Because the code of ethics is telling us that we need to verify our source, we need to report accurately, we need to be fair, and we need to put out truthful information.
If we adhere to all these things then we won’t get any problem at all.”