ACCRA, GHANA - In Ghana, the electoral commission is now requiring journalists to pay a fee to be accredited to cover the presidential and parliamentary elections next month. Journalists are rejecting the requirement, which they say will reduce election transparency.
The electoral commission has not said how much the accreditation fee will be, but according to the statement released Monday, the fee will cover the printing and lamination of accreditation badges. Journalists have until next Monday to apply and make payment.
Kojo Yankson is a journalist at Joy FM radio. “Let the media houses provide identification for their journalists and let the journalists go to work."
Yankson says small local outlets will be hit the hardest.
“If they belong to a radio station that is not making a profit, that is not making enough money to pay for the correct number of their staff to participate in this exercise, then of course the loser is democracy, the loser is transparency, the loser are the people on whose behalf these journalists work. So yes, I definitely see that this will have a direct effect on the transparency of these elections. Hopefully not so much an effect that it will cause problems, but it will definitely put at a disadvantage large sections of the public,” said Yankson.
It’s an unusual practice in Ghana for journalists to pay money to report especially on a national exercise, although in September last year journalists in the Ashanti and Western regions paid 8 cedis, or about $2, before being allowed inside voting centers during district assembly elections.
Prince Minkah reports for Class FM. “On various Whatsapp platforms that I’m on, most of them suspect a move to somehow clip the wings of the media. The Ghana Journalists Association, for me, must as a matter of urgency ask for a review of this particular decision.”
The electoral commission says it needs to cut down on the number of journalists covering the polls.
Funding is also an issue, said deputy head of communications at the commission, Yusif Ayuba.
“You know it is not in the interest of the commission to charge fees to allow journalists to cover the elections. Previously what we have done was to source funding from our donor partners who normally take responsibility for paying for us to produce that particular accreditation cards [for] journalists. But in this year’s case, we’ve not had any donor paying for that fee,” said Ayuba.
The president of the Ghana Journalists Association told VOA they are in discussions with the electoral commission about the fee.
The elections are just over a month away, on December 7.