The Ghana Police Service has clarified its position on the controversial consideration to ban social media on Election Day.
According to the Commnications Director of the Police, the ban was one of the alternatives under consideration but the Police will not shutdown social media on November 7, the day of Ghana’s general elections.
The Inspector General of Police, John Kudalor had earlier suggested that a social media blackout on November 7 was being considered as a way to counter the activities of potential ‘troublemakers’ who might disrupt the election process using these platforms.
“At one stage I said that if it becomes critical on the eve and also on the election day, we shall block all social media as other countries have done. We’re thinking about it,” John Kudalor had said.
Speaking at Blogging Ghana’s Blog camp on Saturday, the Communications Director of the Police Service, Superintendent Cephas Arthur assured Ghanaians the IGP’s comments were on the spur of the moment and a social media ban was not being considered.
“The IGP used the word alternatives but it looks as if nobody heard the other alternatives that he mentioned because nobody is discussing that. This was not part of his speech. It was a kind of off the top of his head answer.
Let us not be alarmed. The IGP is not about to block social media on election day and we are going to have our social media,” Cephas Arthur said.
The IGP’s comments had generated widespread criticism from the general public who felt such an action would represent suppression of freedom of speech.
Several bodies including the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), BloggingGhana, and PenPlusBytes have criticised the Police Chief’s words describing the idea as ‘undemocratic.
The United Nations (UN) has also waded into the debate, stating that they would oppose any attempt to block social media ahead of the elections.
The special representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas said: “I should say without hesitation that from a UN point of view, we would be obviously averse to any steps that will amount to restricting the democratic space, particularly any steps that will be taken to restrict the freedom of expression.”
Cephas Arthur admitted that the Service’s visibility in terms of the online space was negligible but added that steps had been taken to address the situation.
“If you went to our site, you’ll see some inactive social media outlets. We were present, somehow. With ICT advancements, the administration is putting measures in place to ensure that we are also strongly represented there. It’s something that we are working hard at and with the recent issue of abusing social media and having the likelihood of checking out information that could cause problems, the administration is doubling up and a lot is being done to permanently have a very strong presence on the social media front. So I can assure you that we are there, we are working hard and very soon you will see that we are strongly represented and it will be like that forever and we’ll keep on improving and changing with changing times,” he added.
The Project lead of Ghana Decides, Kinna Likimani, stated that her group is willing to “work with the police” to use social media to enhance their work as well as boost their visibility.
“The threat to our peace and social media freedom is real. We have to empower our security forces to handle social media. The sooner the better.” she added.
One of the Police chief’s major worries at the time was the likelihood that the activities of social media ‘bullies and trolls’ would intensify ahead of the polls in November.
However, IT expert Maximus Ametorgoh offered a solution to this, stating there was a way to track down potential social media hooligans.
“There are softwares which the police can use to find specific keywords on social media to track inciters,” he explained.
Ghana Decides also gave social media training to NGOs and other state agencies like the Electoral, Commission, Ghana Armed forces, Ghana News Agency and students from Ghana Institute of Journalism.
Ghana Decides awaits the a definitive response from the Police upon further engagement,
By: Edwin Kwakofi/ghanadecides.com/Ghana