Journalists must pay for accreditation – Charlotte Osei insists

charlotte1The chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Madam Charlotte Osei has told Editors forum in Accra yesterday that her outfit had no option but to charge media practitioners who are applying for accreditation to cover the December 7 election, because the Commission lacks funds to print the accreditation free of charge.

Journalists have been asked by the EC to pay GHC10 and GHC20 respectively for the printing of the accreditation cards, but most of the media practitioners are not happy with this, because the Commission had been given adequate funding for the election and must, therefore, provide the cards free of charge.

The European Union has for instance given the EC 4million pounds whilst the government of Ghana had also paid GHC693 million out of the GHC1.2 billion requested to enable the electoral body to organize the elections.

But Mrs Osei explained that not all the 4 million Pounds Sterling came to the EC and that, the money was distributed among four state institutions and they (EC) only got One Million Pounds Sterling.

She mentioned other recipients as the National Media Commission (NMC) and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE).

“So we don’t have 4 million pounds. If you say we’ve received GHC693 million from the government, “You would recall that the final budget that was approved between the EC, the Special Budget Committee and the Ministry of Finance was GHC1.2 billion, so clearly you now see the reason we need you to pay for your accreditation cards?”She asked rhetorically, laughing all through, adding that “… so please as good partners pay the GHC10 to ensure that you can move around the polling stations and do your work freely and ensure the difference between you (Media) and the voter on the election day.”

The programme ‘briefing by the EC Chairperson’ on the theme: ‘Election 2016: Innovations, flashpoints and other challenges,’ was to give the media the opportunity to discuss any issues bothering them and to seek clarification concerning the general election scheduled for December 7.

The Chairperson of the EC told the journalists that the Commission would follow laws and make sure the processes leading to the election were transparent.

She made this assertion when responding to a question that the EC was too ‘legalistic and unyielding’.

According to Mrs. Osei, it would be safer for her outfit to be legalistic in an election like this. “Are we being legalistic? Yes, should we be legalistic? Yes. In a high contest like we have, I think the safest place for the Electoral Commission is to follow the law to the best of our understanding and ability. Anytime you exercise discretion, which cannot be supported by the law, you risk being taken on by another side, whose rights are also affected.

“It’s very easy sometimes for us to also seek the right of those who are directly affected by the application of the law, forgetting that if you do the opposite, somebody else can take you on, so the safest place for the EC is to be legalistic. I don’t know of any Electoral Commission worth its sort that has not been called unyielding by politicians. I think that’s what you should do. You should be unyielding when it comes to the application of the law. Everybody feels safer and everybody’s rights are respected.”

She said that the EC had made provisions for solar and rechargeable lamps, which could last for twelve (12) hours in case of power outage during the counting of the ballot papers on the day of the election.

She noted that, every polling station on Election Day will require about 97 different items such as Biometric Verification Machine (BVD), Stamps and others, out of which 94 are ready, as of now and being sent to the regions, awaiting movements on election day.

The Chairperson also indicated that the list for the proxy voting and the special voting would be made available to the public on Monday. She added that there would be two (2) hourly briefing with the media on Election Day, so that the media is constantly updated and informed about any challenges we are experiencing with the process and any issue we seek the support of the media to address.

She continued that the total number of proxy voters for this year’s election would be five hundred and thirty-four (534), not the two-hundred and seventy thousand (270,000) being bandied around that the EC would use to rig the election.

“We’ve also been told that we are going to use special voting process as a vehicle to rig the elections. In 2012, there were about a hundred and twenty-thousand (120,000) who took part in special voting. This year, the numbers are about half of that. Excluding the electoral staff, we added the media this year so the media and security personnel count to about 29,773.”

In her welcome address, Ms AjoaYeboah-Afari, Chairperson of the Editor’s Forum (EFG) said the aim of the meeting, which was the third of its kind since 2012, was to provide the EC and the media an opportunity for a dialogue, ahead of the elections, to enhance understanding of the issues and promote better reportage