By Agnes Ansah
Madam Elizabeth Ohene, a renowned Journalist and Statesman has indicated that the internet can spark a third world war if people are not mindful of the information they churn out.
She agrees that technology has changed the pace with which news travel in our current dispensation, but argues that people should be careful about the content of news they churn out and consume.
“Technological advancement is good and we should keep up with it all the time, but content is critical because if we don’t get the content right and we just allow the technology to drive it, then we will have to deal with fake news.
“People deliberately manufacture things and try to put it out there. You know when the next world war starts, it will start with this kind of nonsense,” she said.
She has, therefore, charged journalists to make the difference by verifying information they get on the internet and put out the truth for the good of the country and the world as a whole.
Madam Elizabeth was speaking at a lecture organised by the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) in Accra to commemorate its 70th anniversary.
The program was hinged on the theme: “Journalism Yesterday and Today: Repositioning media with technology” and was attended by veteran journalists in the country, including Prof Kwame Karikari and Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah.
Madam Elizabeth Ohene, who chaired the program said journalists should rather look at the many opportunities the internet has to offer to enhance their work, instead of the negative ones.
She indicated that previously, establishing contact to confirm a story before publishing wasn’t an easy task and some journalists hid behind it to put out information, but now communication is easier and in so many forms.
She said that people manufacture all sorts of news and circulate them on social media and that the traditional journalist shouldn’t follow the masses, but rather verify before publishing.
Citing the recent xenophobic attack in South Africa for example, Madam Elizabeth said most of the things that are being circulated on the internet are not a true reflection of what is happening over there, so “imagine if their Foreign Affairs Minister or President sees it and gets angry, what will happen?
“People deliberately manufacture things and try to put it out there. Look at all the things we are watching and reading about the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Much of it is untrue but they put it together so realistically. So if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or a President gets angry, the next thing you know, war starts.”
The former BBC reporter charged her colleague journalists to put content first, instead of speed.
Mr Roland Affail Monney, President of the GJA, who also spoke to the media said technology is good and so media owners should invest in it, but ensure that the fundamental principles underpinning the practice of journalism, especially truth, is not undermined.
He said that truthful information is a right for the public and not a luxury. A journalist must endeavour to always tell the truth. Any story which lacks facts should be discarded.
He advised journalists to crosscheck their facts before putting out the information for public consumption.
Prof. Kwame Karikari, a Board Member of Media Foundation of West Africa and the Dean of School of Communication Studies, Wisconsin International University College, Ghana, who served as speaker on the program also said journalists should chance on the opportunities technology has offered and give voice to the voiceless.
He said most journalists fail to cover those in the hinterland and rural areas, but only give voice to the government and its appointees and the well to do in society, which isn’t good for the country’s democracy.
He said most of the people living in the rural areas have access to devices that enable them to pass on information to journalists in the city, so journalists should take a critical look at it.
He said the government should also invest in technology by investing in technical institutions in the country to train the youth to be able to produce some of these emerging technologies in the country for development.